27 posts categorized "Advice from the Pros"

Monday, August 01, 2011

Prepping Your Deck for Stain


Whether your deck is made of pressure-treated lumber, cedar, redwood, or teak, everything from the sun's UV rays to rain and snow to simple everyday use creates wear and tear on the surface. Sooner or later it'll need refinishing. Telltale signs that your deck needs a bit more attention than just a good scrubbing are: peeling; when water no longer beads on the surface; grey wood (an indication of dead wood fibers); and splintering (the wood is drying out).

As with almost any paint job, expect to spend most of your time prepping: A good strategy is to devote one weekend to cleaning and prepping, and the following weekend to applying the finish. No matter what the situation, time spent properly at this stage means the final finish will last longer and application will be quicker and easier. 

Pro Tip: The best time to refinish a deck is in mid-to-late spring, early summer or early fall, when the surface temperature of the deck is above 50°F, but below 90°F, and when the humidity level is low to average. (If you can't put your hand on the deck and leave it there without getting uncomfortable then it's too hot.) Best times to work are in the late morning or late afternoon, when the surface is not in direct sunlight.

How you prepare the deck is determined by its current condition and what kind of stain (clear, semi-transparent, semi-solid, or solid) you decide to use. You most likely have one of three kinds of existing decks: one that's a few years old and has never been coated; one that's been stained with a semi-transparent stain and is in good condition; and a deck that's at least three years old and has been stained multiple times with a semi-transparent stain. Here are the basics for dealing with each of these situations:

First, remove all furniture, planters, toys, and grills from the area. Sweep off any debris, and then check for raised or "popped" nails. These should be either counter sunk or removed with the claw end of a hammer and replaced with galvanized deck screws. Never stain over damaged or rotted wood. All bad boards should be replaced before surface preparation.

Unfinished Decks
If your deck has never been stained, UV rays from the sun will have broken down the wood fibers. Cleaning and renewing the surface can be accomplished with Benjamin Moore 316 Restore. It is designed to remove dead surface fiber and any dirt and contamination. Follow this with an application of Benjamin Moore 317 Brighten to neutralize the Restorer and bring the wood back to its original color tone. Once the surface has dried, sand with a belt sander to remove any raised or loose fibers. At this point, you can apply any of the Arborcoat products from Translucent to Solid stain.

Pro Tip: Follow the label instruction for all prep products, all of which can be applied with a standard garden pump sprayer.

Previously Stained Decks in Good Condition
If your deck has a semi-transparent finish and is in sound condition (not peeling, worn areas to bare wood, badly weathered etc.), clean it with Benjamin Moore 318 Cleaner to remove dirt, contaminations and mildew. After the deck has dried, sand lightly with 80 grit sandpaper. At this point, you can apply Arborcoat 623 Translucent, 639 Semi Solid or Solid Stains. If your finish choice is the Arborcoat 637 Transparent or 638 Semi Transparent two-coat deck system, the deck will have to be stripped of all previous stain.

Pro Tip: Mineral spirits on a soft rag will remove stains caused by tree sap.



Neglected Decks
If your deck is older and has multiple coats of stain, it must be stripped to a sound surface. Your have two options for this task. You can sand the deck with a mechanical sander like the OnFloor Prep 16 machine (available at your local Benjamin Moore Retailer), or use an orbital sander available at your local rental store. This is a good alternative but will limit your preparation to the horizontal deck surface; railings, spindles and steps will have to be done with a hand held sander. The other option is chemical stripping. This is a very effective preparation method but you have to wait for the deck to dry before you can stain it (normally several hours or overnight). Use Benjamin Moore 315 Remove to eliminate the old coatings. Follow that with an application of 317 Brighten, which neutralizes the Remove and brightens the wood to its original color. Once dried, the surface should be lightly sanded with 80 grit sandpaper before its ready to accept any of the Arborcoat deck coatings.

Pro tip: When using chemical strippers or cleaners, thoroughly water all vegetation around the area in advance and protect plants with a tarp.

Next time, we'll fill you in on how to choose and apply the right stain or paint.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Preparing New Pressure Treated Wood Deck to Take a Finish

The warm weather is finally here and if you've just finished installing a brand new deck, it'll need some kind of protection before you can invite friends and family over to enjoy it. Chances are you used pressure treated wood (PTW), the most common and inexpensive choice for decking. If so, you should hold off picking up a brush. Chances are your brand new PTW is not ready to take a finish just yet.


left: weathered new wood showing dead fibers 
right: prepped wood ready for finish

Pressure treatment is a process that forces chemical preservatives deep into the wood, commonly giving it a slight green tint. Wood is placed inside a sealed container, and vacuum pressure is applied to force the preservatives into the wood. The preservatives help protect the wood from insects, decay and help preserve the stability of the wood. As a result, new PTW will often have a high moisture content and needs to dry out before a coating can be applied. (If the PTW has been sitting at the lumber yard for a few months, it may be OK.) So, before you dip a brush into a can of stain or paint, you should check the moisture level in the wood--you should also do this if you had the deck power washed in preparation to refinishing. You can check the moisture level with a moisture meter, commonly for sale or for rent at your local hardware store. An ideal level of moisture would be below 15%. Your newly installed PTW deck could dry out to under 15% moisture content in as little as four days. However, it is good practice to always check with a meter to ensure the moisture level is below this level.

If the deck is not coated with in a week of being installed you may notice the wood turning gray. This is a thin layer of dead wood fibers that must be removed prior to sealing or staining chemically with prep products such as Benjamin Moore's Restore followed by Brightener & Neutralizer. Afterwards sanding with 80 grit paper will provide you with a smooth finish that will allow a more even application and penetration of your stain in addition to removing any mill-glaze. Regardless of which path you take, it will prepare your deck and restore it to its natural color ready to take a new finish and a visit from family and friends.

In the next two posts we'll cover finish options for previously stained decks as well as preparation and application.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cleaning Brushes and Rollers

Quality brushes and rollers are expensive, so it pays to take good care of them. Fortunately, water-based latex paints have taken most of the hassle out of clean-up--all you need is a few minutes and a little soap and water and you can return your applicators to as-new condition at the end of every paint job.

Start by brushing the excess paint out of the brush on a piece of newspaper or cardboard. Then rinse the bulk of the paint out under a faucet. Mixing a little dish soap with warm water in a container large enough to submerge the brush. Don't be afraid to work at a kitchen or bathroom sink, paint splatters will wipe right off without a trace. As the brush soaks in the water, work the bristles against the bottom of the container or with your hands to release any remaining paint, then rinse the brush under the faucet while squeezing the bristles. Repeat this process a few times until the brush releases all of the paint stored in the ferrule and the rinse water runs clear. Separating the bristles with your hand as you rinse will allow water to wash away the last bits of soap and paint from the brush.

If the brush was used previously and not cleaned properly, some of the bristles may be glued together in clumps with dried paint. Instead of throwing the brush away, use a brush comb (available at most hardware and paint stores) to separate the bristles and comb out the old paint while cleaning the brush as described above. Even when a brush has been properly cleaned, an occasional brushing is still a good idea to remove loose bristles and debris.


A brush comb is handy for removing dried paint.

After the brush is clean, shake it vigorously to remove excess water (best to do this outside) or a paint spinner, then store it in the box or sleeve that it was packaged in. This will help the brush hold its shape and keep it clean. If the original packaging is not available, wrap it in newspaper or a paper towel and hang the brush by the handle (most handles have holes) so that water can drain out of the ferrule. This will help the brush maintain is original shape. Never stand the brush on its bristles--this will deform them and ruin the brush.



Use a 5-in-1 tool to scrape excess paint from a roller sleeve prior to cleanup.

A roller takes a little more effort to clean than a brush and won't last as long, but the expensive ones are still worth saving and re-using. Begin by rolling out all of the paint that you can off the roller or scraping it with a 5-in-1 tool so that the sleeve isn't saturated with paint. The roller sleeve will be easier to clean if it is removed from the handle. Start by running the roller under the faucet to remove the bulk of the paint. Then place the sleeve in a container of warm soapy water and massage the nap to release the remaining paint. Repeat this process several times, rinsing the sleeve with clear water and squeezing it with your hands each time to remove all of the paint. If there's any paint left in the sleeve, the sleeve will be nappy, matted, and unusable after it has dried. After the final rinse, dry the sleeve with an old towel or chamois, or give it a whirl with a paint spinner to remove as much moisture as possible. Then store the sleeve in its original packaging or a plastic bag to keep it clean until you are ready to use it again.

Helpful Hint: If you are going to use the roller later in the day or the next day, simply wrap it in plastic wrap, put in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator rather than cleaning it.


A paint spinner can be used to quickly dry rinsed roller sleeves.
Slide the sleeve onto the spinner and spin it into a bucket or cardboard box.

These steps apply to water-based paints only. If you’re using solvent-based paints, brush clean-up procedures are similar, but you must use mineral spirits instead of water (most painters don’t bother cleaning roller sleeves when using oil-based paints). Mineral spirits must be disposed of according to local regulations and should never be dumped down the drain or poured out onto the ground.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Choosing the Right Roller


Like brushes, choosing the right roller makes all the difference. For very little extra, not only will you get a significantly better finish but the work and cleanup will be quicker and smoother. Seems like a no-brainer but almost everyone gets tempted by those cheap discount packs . . . which is fine if you want a cheap finish and give yourself extra work. The truth is, a good paint roller will cut hours off your painting time while leaving behind a smooth, even finish. Rollers come in different sizes, from small 'slim jims' (useful for painting the wall behind toilets and should not be used for large wall areas) to huge 18-inch setups, but 9 inch rollers are the most commonly used size.

Roller covers are made from a range of materials that have different 'nap' lengths; the type and nap size you need depends on your project. Choose a roller cover that won't leave lint or roller marks behind; don't even bother with the foam rollers--they're fine for testing paint colors, but on large surfaces they just create thousands of tiny air bubbles in the paint film that leave behind a 'cratered' finish.

Good roller covers have moisture-resistant plastic or phenolic cores that won't absorb water and lose their shape. They're also made with solvent-resistant glues, so that the fabric nap will stay bonded to the core instead of ending up on the wall (shed resistance should be listed on the label of any good sleeve). Avoid roller covers with untreated cardboard cores, the kind sold in those bulk packs, they will absorb paint, get soft, and lose their shape in no time.

If you're painting smooth new drywall or slab doors with high sheen paint, choose a roller cover with a short 1/4-inch or 3/16-inch nap. A short nap roller cover won't hold a lot of paint, but it will leave a very smooth finish with very little stipple, or texturing. For matte and eggshell paints on smooth, previously painted drywall, use 3/8-inch or 5/16-inch nap sleeves. The slightly longer nap will hold more paint with minimal roller stipple. A quality roller cover with a 3/8-inch nap is versatile enough to work with most paints on most surfaces.

For medium-textured plaster and similar surfaces, use 1/2-inch nap sleeves, but keep in mind that roller stipple will be noticeable. This is a good choice for previously-painted walls or ceilings that already have some texture to them. For rough surfaces like concrete block, most pros use 3/4-inch or even longer nap sleeves.

The denser the pile, the more paint the roller cover can hold without splattering. For best results, you're looking for a roller cover that will hold as much paint as possible, yet release it onto the wall with minimal splattering (these are often called 'High Capacity' rollers).  Lambswool or sheepskin roller covers are dense and extra-long, so they hold a lot of paint. They're good for textured walls, but won't leave a smooth finish on a smooth wall. For the smoothest finish on the smoothest walls, choose a micro-fiber or mohair cover. "Mohair" covers are also good for applying smooth finishes such as polyurethanes or varnishes.

Finally, get an extension pole along with your quality roller covers. The extension pole will allow you to roll from the ceiling to the floor applying a good even coat of paint.

Good frames and roller covers are worth saving, so they should be cleaned carefully after use with soap and water. With today's fast-drying paints, it's also good to know that roller covers can also be temporarily stored between coats without cleaning: Simply wrap the wet cover in a plastic bag, seal it up in another plastic bag, and store in a cool, dark space. Kept this way, the paint-filled roller cover will be good as new for several hours and even overnight.