Successfully Staining Exotic Hardwood Decks

Written by  Dave Barnes
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Years ago it seems like every deck was constructed out of CCA — pine wood treated with copper chromium arsenic  commonly referred to as pressure-treated lumber. Because most of the decks were constructed out of the same type of lumber (CCA), the products that you used and the process of staining them were all pretty similar. But not today  times have changed.

Over the past several years, lumber yards have worked to carve out niches in the marketplace by introducing new species of woods to the market, like Cypress and Mahogany or rainforest hardwoods Ipe and Pau-Lope. These products offer an unequalled level of beauty and uniqueness as well as hardness and durability that far exceeds conventional lumber. These characteristics can offer huge advantages to the homeowner; however, they also present a variety of challenges when it comes to staining.

Typically these types of woods are very dense and contain a high amount of natural oils, making it difficult for stains to be absorbed. For these reasons, they need to be treated a little differently when staining. That's not to say that they can't be stained; they just need to be treated a little differently. I've outlined a few basics for you in this report that will help to ensure that your project will look like it was stained by a pro.

Step 1: Let the Wood Weather

Exotic hardwoods are dense and contain natural oils that block wood stains that you try to apply, so let Mother Nature help you out. Once your deck has been built, allow nature's elements to break down the surface of the wood and dry it out so that stains will be more easily absorbed. The sun, the wind, and the rain can do wonders. The more the wood weathers, the easier it will be to stain it and the longer your staining job should last.

Step 2: Start With a Stain Stripper

Even if your wood is brand new and has never been stained, it is still a great idea to start your project off by applying a stain stripper, such as DEFY® Wood Stain Stripper. Stain strippers are formulated using sodium hydroxide, an aggressive chemical that breaks down the surface of the wood, opens up its pores, and makes it more absorbent. Remember, the more stain that you can get the wood to absorb, the longer your project is going last.

Step 3: Don't Forget to Brighten

Yes, you have to brighten the deck, too, even if you're working with brand new wood. I know it seems kind of funny, having to brighten new wood, but the brightener will do a few things for you. First, it will neutralize the effects of the stripper that you used previously. You always have to use an acid brightener after using an alkaline stripper to bring the wood back to a neutral state. Secondly, like the stripper, the brightener will also help to open up the porosity of the wood even further, allowing the stain to soak in better.

Step 4: Take a Break

Good news: you can take the rest of the day off  take two if you like. The important thing now is to allow the wood to dry out from all of the cleaning you've just done. The drier the wood gets, the better it will absorb the stain. So take a day or two off and let the wood dry before you think about applying the stain.

Step 5: Not Just Any Stain Will Work

Your next big decision is which stain to use. Certain stains have been formulated for better penetration, making them ideal for hardwoods. Most manufacturers offer a product in this category. DEFY® Deck Stain for Hardwoods is extremely durable, water-based, and eco-friendly. It's both easy to use and easy on the environment. Whatever stain you select, make sure that you choose one that has been specifically formulated for use on exotic hardwoods and other difficult-to-penetrate lumber.

Step 6: Ask for Directions

Everything that you need to know about the product is on the back of the can. Take a few minutes to read it. The directions will inform you of any particulars that can affect the outcome of the job, e.g. what is the dry time, how many coats should you apply, how much time between coats, is there a critical recoat time? There can be any number of specific directions on the back of the can. Take a minute and read the directions.

Step 7: Brushing Is Critical

Pay close attention to the next few tips; they are essential to achieving the desired result. First, regardless of how you apply the stain (e.g. rolling, spraying), it absolutely must be back-brushed. If you roll it on first, simply back-brush it in after it's rolled on but while it is still wet. The same goes for spraying. "Why must I go to all of that trouble?" you ask. It's a simple explanation. When you brush the stain, the brush creates a friction on the surface, breaking the surface tension of the wood to work the stain in to the pores of the wood. You get a much better penetration of the stain, giving you increased longevity.

Step 8: Wipe Off Any Excess

If you apply too much stain to the wood (more stain than what the wood can absorb), wipe off the excess. We don't think twice about wiping off excess stain when we are staining interior wood. The reasons are simple. First is aesthetics. When you apply too much stain, it puddles on the surface and looks bad. Secondly, over time those spots are likely to flake and peel. So only apply as much stain as the wood can easily absorb.

Step 9: Let It Cure

At this point the deck is done. If you've taken your time and followed these steps, you've got a great looking project. Leave the furniture in the yard and the dog in the house while the stain has a chance to cure out. Come back tomorrow and put things back together. You'll be glad that you waited a day to do it.

Step 10: Manage Your Expectations

Now here's some advice that I hope you accept. Remember, you've selected an exotic wood for your deck, a beautiful grade of lumber with extreme durability. Regardless of how well you did in every step of this process, you will never get the stain to last as long as it would on a more porous species of wood. But also realize that every time you stain it, you'll increase the life of your project a little each time. Time will continue to help the wood become more porous, and as it does, it will absorb the stain better each time.

Step 11: Keep An Eye On Things

You've put in a great deal of time and energy into staining your deck the right way, so keep an eye on things. As time passes the stain will begin to fade and wear down, so apply a maintenance coat. Don't let things erode so far that you're forced to strip everything off and start all over. Maintaining your deck is easy and doesn't take much time; simply rinse things off and apply a fresh coat of stain.

So that's it, eleven keys to successfully staining exotic hardwoods. Go ahead and try these eleven keys for yourself. See what the results are when you set out on your next project to do it like a pro. You might just surprise yourself!

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