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How to Refinish/Waterproof your Deck

Come on, today’s the day. Get your sorry butt outside and waterproof that deck. Refinishing a deck is one of the most gratifying ways to spend a Saturday. Using the right cleaners and waterproofers you can take that deck from Sahara to Sa-weet in a single day.

Deck refinishing and waterproofing

This is what I’m dealing with. It’s been a year or two since my deck slurped up any waterproofing goodness. It actually hurts to look at it. Dry. Crackling. When it rains this wood slurps up the water faster than your uncle slurps down Manhattans at the holidays. That’s actually one of the ways to tell when your deck needs help. You sit, slurp Manhattans, and watch it rain on your deck and see if the water gets slurped up or beads up. If it’s not beading it’s time to slurp apply some waterproofer. Slurp.

It’s definitely time.

Deck refinishing


Step 1: Safety

I’m obligated to tell you to take precautions to be safe and protect your body by wearing a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, closed-toed shoes, rubber gloves, a hat, and goggles before working with cleaners or waterproofing sealers. But I think we all know that on the deck in the hot weather you’ll be stripped down to your Dukes of Hazard boxers within 15 minutes. Also protect your shrubs and plants by spraying them down with water, covering them, and then re-spraying them down after you’re done and have removed the plastic (yeah right).

Step 2: Cleaning your deck

lowes_deck_thompsoncleanerThere are plenty of deck/wood cleaners, but I went with Thompson’s WaterSeal Exterior Multi-Surface Cleaner (Lowe’s Item #: 314951). The reason you want to clean your deck before sealing it is so you remove dirt, fungus, mildew, and residual finish from previous treatments. You should even clean brand new wood before sealing it to sprayerremove any mill glaze of other treatments given at the mill. (Mill glaze comes from the high heat of the saws and machinery reacting with the wood oils.) This is the easiest step because you really just spray it on with a plastic tank sprayer, like this one (Chapin 2-Gallon Plastic Tank Sprayer Item #: 303427), wait, scrub it, and rinse it.

Follow the manufacturers instructions and you’re in business, but I’ll break it down for you right here for the slower kids in class:

  1. Spray on the cleaner
  2. Wait the recommended time
  3. Scrub with a stiff brush
  4. Rinse it off with a pressure washer or regular old hose.

Step 3: Waterproofing

Normally I would recommend using a sprayer for the cleanser AND the waterproofer, but I’m just not crazy about the sprayer for applying the waterproofer. I’ll leave it up to your personal preference, but I like to bust out my nasty old junk brushes and slosh it around purely by hand.



This is your chance to feel like you’re creating art if you have zero artistic ability, like Henri Matisse (I mean, come on, La Japonaise? CRI_150918My daughter did the same painting when she was 3 years old*). You can either slosh the waterproofer around and get everything covered, or be like Bob Ross and paint every happy little board very carefully. 032053241017lg

For waterproofing I went with Thompson’s Low VOC WaterSeal (Lowe’s Item #:  236342). Waterproofing is so easy I’m not even going to break it down for the slow kids in class. You follow the directions on the container and apply it in whatever manner you like best.

Personally I always like to use water-based cleaners and waterproofers because the cleanup is the easiest and only involves soap and water instead of mineral spirits for oil-based products. PLUS the water-based cleaner allows you to move on to the waterproofing step usually in a matter of hours instead of a matter of days (read your instructions).




*I actually do like Matisse, I just needed to find an artist that was mainstream enough that you’d know who he was and someone who had a painting dumb-looking enough that my kid could have done it.


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“In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from Lowe’s for my time and participation in the Lowe’s Creative Ideas Influencer Network. Although we have a material connection to Lowe’s, any publicly stated opinions of Lowe’s and their products remain our own.”

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