Last spring, we started the not-so-fun job of staining the deck. As some of you know, this is at least the third time we’ve done a deck makeover in what seems like a fairly short time period. It saddens me to say that we’ll be picking up the paint brushes once again next month. Why, you ask?
To give you the short backstory, we started out with a small 10 x 12 foot deck that was here when we moved in. A few years later, we added a lower section along with a cedar privacy wall.
Because the pressure treated wood on the lower section was newer and the upper was treated with a clear coat previously, we ended up having to select a darker semi-transparent stain to keep the look consistent on both levels. All of the lighter stains I tested resulted in a noticeable difference in coverage and colour from top to bottom. Dark seemed like a good solution.
At first, we were happy with how it turned out. I found the undertone to be a bit red for my liking, but those types of stain colours were more popular at the time. Besides, it was finally done, and being able to enjoy it was all that really mattered. Our summers are much too short.
What we came to realize only a short time later is how high maintenance dark stains can be. Wear patterns from our dog coming in and out of the house quickly showed, as well as marks from our outdoor furniture (even though we were careful while sliding chairs in and out from the table). By the next spring, our deck was looking pretty rough.
Since our son was graduating that year and we were planning a big party, we decided to freshen the deck with new stain. Perhaps we could’ve stripped the dark colour and started from scratch, but we were pretty time crunched and decided to go over the entire surface with a dark espresso solid stain. As well, our dog Reegan was no longer with us, so track marks and hair weren’t a concern.
To address the furniture scuffing problem, we added outdoor rugs to both levels, which helped tremendously. The colour no longer had a prominent red undertone, so we were happy about that. As well, the darker brown colour worked much better with our house and furniture colours.
So, why did we decide to go in a completely different direction this time around?
Although the solid stain held up better (3 years without having to touch it up), it constantly looked dusty and we were having to vacuum it regularly. Yes, we used our central vac with the brush attachment every few days throughout the summer to keep it looking clean. When it rained, the water droplets dried white, making it look terrible too. Sometimes, I had to mop the deck, then dry it to keep it looking good. It was a total pain!
This go-around, I wanted a stain colour that looked good, but was low maintenance too. After testing several colours, we decided on Benjamin Moore’s Chelsea Gray, which is a warm gray with a very slight green undertone.
No, I didn’t use a primer as it may appear. That very light grey (almost white) shown above is Seacoast Gray by Cabot. That’s why it’s always important to test stain colours on the surface it’s intended for before you make a decision. On the chip it looked much darker.
However, decks are flat surfaces that reflect light, so colours tend to read much lighter and brighter outdoors. This photo was taken on an overcast day, so you can imagine how bright it was in the sun. My husband thought it looked like snow. Thank goodness I did my homework before committing!
As shown here in the shade, it reads a bit blue. For the most part, it’s a lovely warm gray that seems to work with many colours. Depending on the time of day, the colour looks different, which is something I like. It also works well with our stepping stone walkway that’s joined to our stone patio below.
I’m not going to lie and say the transition from espresso stain to this medium gray was easy. We had to sand down the old stain that was peeling, then give the whole deck (including the skirting) two coats of the new colour. It was labour intensive and took a lot of patience when it came to the working around the rain.
After only living with the Chelsea Gray for a week, I liked it so much better. It had rained and there were no signs of water droplets when they dried. We also couldn’t see any dust (not to say it wasn’t there).
After a good solid month, it was looking great (minus a few bird splatters we had to clean up). I took this photo with my phone one evening while we were enjoying dinner outside after a light rain.
Since the deck staining was done, I was able to focus on other outdoor projects. I always look forward to the part when I get to plant flowers and add outdoor decor to our backyard. I worked hard to get it done before Canada Day.
At the end of June, when everything was finished and I had planned on taking the reveal photos of our deck makeover, a huge storm ripped through our town. We’re talking the most hail I’ve ever seen in my life. Yes, that looks like snow in the photo below, but it’s actually melting hail.
All I could do is watch out the windows as the storm ripped our trees and plants apart, and started peeling the stain right off our deck. All I could think is please don’t let any windows break since we finished our main floor renovation only months before. I couldn’t help but start crying.
Those black bits are tiny pieces of our shingles. Yes, they took a beating too.
The only parts of the deck that looked okay were the ones that were covered with the rugs.
Our plants? Pretty much toast. Thankfully, many of them bounced back within a month or so. Others, never recovered.
That storm, along with several other obstacles we faced during our renovation, taught me many life lessons.
We had to wait several weeks for our insurance company to assess the damage. Meanwhile, at least two more big hail storms passed through. By the time everything was worked out, it was too late in the season to repair the stain. That means we’ll be addressing it next month (if the weather cooperates). Hopefully it will be the last of deck staining for a very long time!
Facing any of your own home improvement challenges? Is your deck your nemesis too or is something else causing you grief at the moment?
If you don’t want to miss any other parts of our deck makeover, I encourage you to subscribe to get post updates. As well, this year’s Outdoor Extravaganza kicks off May 11th!