How to Apply Wood Sealer to Your Deck for Maximum Protection 

 July 15, 2023

By  Dale Keese

Do you have a wooden deck that you love to show off and enjoy? Is it exposed to harsh weather and climbing temperatures? If the answer is yes, you’ve probably noticed the effects of weathering on your deck, like rotting, cracking and fading. The easy fix? Wood sealer!

Applying wood sealer to your deck is relatively simple. Start by cleaning and sanding the wood, then rinse off any residue with clean water and a soft cloth. After the wood has dried, use a brush or roller to apply your sealer in thin, even coats. Allow each coat to dry before applying the next.

The problem is, many people don’t know where to start when it comes to sealing their decks. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this blog post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to apply wood sealer to your deck for maximum protection - we’ll tell you which type of sealer to use, how to prepare your deck before applying the sealer, and the best techniques for applying the sealer itself. So read on, and get ready to seal your deck in no time!

Preparing Your Deck

Properly preparing your wood deck before applying sealer is one of the most important steps to ensure maximum protection. Failure to clean and prepare the area beforehand can cause the sealant to peel and flake prematurely, leading to costly repairs in just a few years.

One of the first steps in preparation is to inspect for signs of rotting wood, loose nails, or protruding boards that may need replaced prior to application. A power washer can be used at medium or low pressure to clean the deck so long as it doesn't dig deep into the wood. When using a pressure washer, use caution and pay close attention to any areas that could be damaged by its powerful force.

On the other hand, some believe that if done right, a pressure washer is an essential tool that drastically helps with prepping a deck for sealer by removing dirt and mildew build-up quickly. Pressure washing gives you a better view of your deck's condition, so you can see which boards need replacing before sealing begins. Alternatively, you can also use scrubbing pads or even steam cleaning for tougher dirt and mildew spots.

Regardless of which cleaning method you choose, make sure all debris such as leaves and dirt are swept off thoroughly because these will inhibit your sealer from being able to bind properly with the wood. Now that your deck is ready, let’s move on to cleaning the wood deck in order to remove any grime or mildew residue.

Key Takeaway

It is important to thoroughly prepare your wood deck before applying sealer in order to ensure maximum protection. Inspect the deck for rotting wood, loose nails, or protruding boards that may need replaced. You can use a power washer at low or medium pressure or scrubbing pads or steam cleaning for tougher dirt spots. Make sure all debris such as leaves and dirt are swept off so the sealer can bind properly with the wood.

Clean the Wood Deck

Cleaning the wood deck is an essential step for applying wood sealer. Good preparation of the deck is necessary to ensure proper adhesion of the sealer and a successful long lasting result.

When cleaning, it is important to remove dirt, dust, grime, mold and mildew from the surface. This can be done with a pressure washer, but it is not recommended for composite or other types of decks as this could damage them. A soft bristle brush and water should be used instead. To effectively clean and prepare the deck, it may be beneficial to use a cleaner that contains phosphoric acid or sodium hypochlorite in order to remove deep seated stains and organic growths. After cleaning, let the deck dry completely before applying any sealer.

There are also differing opinions as to whether sanding is necessary prior to sealing the deck. Some believe that sanding not only removes dirt and debris but opens up the grain of the wood so that the sealer can better penetrate and bond with it, providing better protection against wear and tear over time. Others argue that because high-quality sealers have superior bonding formulas that do not need abrasion for them to adhere, sanding could potentially strip away natural protective oils from the wood making it more susceptible to damage from sun and water exposure.

Ultimately, it is up to the discretion of the homeowner to decide whether a light sanding is needed or not after cleaning off dirt and debris from their deck. Whichever decision is made, ensure that all surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned before proceeding with applying sealer in order to guarantee maximum protection.

The next step in ensuring maximum protection when applying wood sealer is to properly prepare the deck for sealer application - this will be discussed in the following section.

Prepare the Deck for Sealer

Before applying a sealant to your deck, it is important to properly prepare the surface so that you achieve maximum protection. It is essential that any dirt, grime, mold, or mildew is completely removed beforehand. Loose paint should also be scraped away. To do this, you can use a pressure washer or backyard garden hose with suitable cleaning supplies such as detergent and/or bleach. Pressure washing can be an effective way to clean away dirt, dust and other debris from the wood flooring of the deck.

Alternatively, you may choose to sand the wood in order to achieve a smooth finish before applying sealer. To debate both sides of this argument: Power washing will generally save time and effort over manual sanding but keep in mind that power washing can potentially damage certain types of wood if too much force is applied. Therefore, when choosing between pressure washing and sanding, consider factors such as the type of wood material used on your deck as well as the age and condition of the deck.

Once all incongruities have been eliminated and the surface area is smooth and manageable with no tears or broken ends, it is time to move onto selecting the right sealant for your deck. Choosing the right sealer can be challenging but with the right information and research you can ensure that your deck receives optimal protection against weather conditions and everyday wear-and-tear. In the next section, we will discuss how to choose the best sealer for your deck so that it looks beautiful for years to come.

Choosing the Right Sealer

Choosing the right sealer for your deck is a critical step to ensuring maximum protection. There are two main types of sealers, penetrating and film-forming. It is important to weigh up the pros and cons of both options before making a decision.

Penetrating sealers are moisture-repellant and generate an organic oil that provides nutrients to the wood, preventing shrinkage and cracking of the wood over time. They also have excellent resistance to mold and mildew, tend to be easy to apply, and can darken the wood if desired. However, they do not provide UV protection which can cause fading over time, and they require frequent re-application.

Film-forming sealers are resistant to UV radiation, forming a protective film layer on the wood surface which eliminates moisture absorption while preserving natural wood color as well as color stains applied later. These sealers usually require less re-application than penetrating sealers but may peel off or chip if applied improperly to weathered surfaces or if too heavy a coat is used.

Whichever type of sealer you choose for your deck, make sure it is specifically designed for exterior use to ensure maximum durability and protection from weather conditions. With the right sealer chosen, you can now turn our attention to how it should be applied - starting in the next section.

Applying the Sealer

Applying the sealer is perhaps the most important step in providing your deck with maximum protection. Doing it properly can be a bit tricky, since the amount of sealer you’ll need to apply, the technique to use, and the drying time needed all depends on several factors such as the size of the deck and what type of product you’re using.

When it comes to applying the sealer, there are two schools of thought: brushing and rolling. Many experts agree that brushing is best for horizontal surfaces like decking boards since it allows for better coverage than rolling does. However, others argue that rolling is quicker and easier as long as you’ve chosen an appropriate roller with a short nap roller cover that won't leave any visible stippling or patterning on the surface. In most cases though, a combination of both methods is ideal if you want the best possible coverage.

When you’re ready to begin, make sure to start at one corner of your deck and work your way out from there. Use a pump-style garden sprayer when applying larger areas, such as railings or pergolas. For smaller areas, like spindles and posts, you can use a brush instead. Wait until all areas have completely dried before moving onto the next step: using a dry brush or roller to evenly coat your surface with sealer.

Use a Dry Brush or Roller

Most decks require you to use a dry brush or roller when applying wood sealer. You should avoid using a garden hose, as the pressurized water can cause the surface to become uneven and could also penetrate your wood too deeply.

When using a dry brush, begin in one corner of your deck and move parallel strokes along each board. Apply light pressure and go over the same area several times to ensure that the sealer is evenly distributed. Make sure to reach beneath railings and in between boards. This is the best way to ensure that every nook and crevice receives the proper protection.

Using a roller is another popular method when applying wood sealer. However, some professionals recommend applying two coats instead of one with a rolling method since it can be more difficult to even out the coverage of the sealer with this application technique. It's important to keep things even as much as possible when working with a roller, as an uneven coat will not protect your deck as effectively as it should and may cause issues further down the line.

Moving forward, saturating each section of your deck with wood sealer is pivotal for ensuring complete protection. Regardless of whether you choose to apply your wood sealer using a brush or roller, it's essential that you evenly saturate each area and don't skimp out on any details. The next section will talk about how to proceed with distributing the wood sealer in an effective and efficient manner.

Saturate Each Section

It is important to saturate each section of the deck with sealer in order to ensure full protection. To do this, use a paintbrush or roller and apply the sealer in long, even strokes across the deck surface. Make sure to coat all edges, corners and crevices completely.

Some professionals debate that it is better to apply several thin coats of sealer to one area at a time rather than completely saturating the entire surface. Applying multiple thin coats allows for better penetration, but requires more time and effort to apply multiple times. Others feel that saturating sections thoroughly at once works just as well and saves time by not having to reapply every few minutes.

No matter which technique you choose, be sure that each section has been fully saturated. Once complete, move on to applying multiple coats of wood sealer until desired coverage and protection is achieved.

Apply Multiple Coats

Applying multiple coats of wood sealer is the best way to ensure maximum protection of your deck. Using additional coats will fill in any gaps left by the first coat, strengthen its adhesion, and add more layers to provide better protection against potential water damage. The additional coats will also further protect your deck from UV damage, increase its resistance to mildew and make sure that dirt is repelled rather than absorbed into the wood. In general, two or three coats of sealer should be sufficient for most standard wooden decks.

Before applying multiple coats, it is important that each coat is allowed to dry completely before proceeding with the next one. For example, some sealers may require one to three days of drying time for each coat applied. Also, it is important to clean off the deck between each coat being applied in either warm soapy water or just a hose – this will help remove any dirt or debris which may have gotten stuck on the deck and ensure that the subsequent coat has a good base of adhesion. Lastly, be sure to follow all manufacturer directions exactly when applying multiple coats of sealer.

For some homeowners, the idea of using multiple coats may sound intimidating and time consuming. However, given how much longer it can extend the lifespan of your deck and improve its level of protection against potential issues such as rot or mildew, this extra step is well worth it to ensure maximum protection now and in the future.

With multiple coats successfully applied, it's now time to move on to caring for your newly sealed deck. It's important that you stay diligent with cleaning and maintenance procedures in order to make sure your newly sealed deck lasts its full life-span. In the following section we'll go over how best to care for your sealed wooden deck so you get get many years of use out of it.

Caring and Maintenance

Caring for your deck after applying the sealer is just as important as the application itself. To ensure the longest lifespan of your deck, regular maintenance is essential. The best way to maintain a deck depends largely on the type of sealer used and the elements it has been exposed to. Generally, it's recommended that cleaning and resealing are done at least once a year.

There is debate between professionals over whether pressure washing or using chemicals like bleach to clean a deck are beneficial. On one side, some experts argue that pressure washing can strip away sealer and water-based cleaners are safer and more effective in removing dirt, mold, mildew and other grime. On the other side of the debate, others insist that pressure washing is necessary to eliminate deep-seated dirt and grime from circulation within porous woods. It also helps remove discoloration from algae growth.

Whatever method of cleaning you choose for your deck, make sure you follow it with another coat of sealer to help resist UV ray deterioration and keep the wood looking its best for many years to come.Next we'll discuss the importance of monitoring the weather when applying sealants to outdoor surfaces, such as your deck.

Monitor the Weather

When preparing to apply a wood sealer to your deck, monitoring the weather conditions is essential for optimal protection. Ideally, you should plan to apply the sealer on a warm and dry day. The temperature should be between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity, no rain, and no heat. Applying wood sealer in inclement weather will result in inferior protection or discoloration of the wood. Additionally, if the sealer is exposed to rain while it is still drying—as much as 48 hours after initial application—it could be washed away entirely.

For best results, you should try to complete the project all in one go; waiting until after you’ve received a substantial amount of rain might damage your hard work. On the other hand, sunny hot days can also cause problems if there are too many UV rays which can dry out the wood before it’s had time to properly absorb the sealant.

It goes without saying that for maximum protection for your deck, monitoring the weather should be your top priority when applying a wood sealer. As soon as you notice signs of an impending storm or drastic changes in climate, consider pausing or canceling the project altogether so you don’t risk water damage on your freshly sealed deck. After all, careful planning and coordination will ensure your deck is looking great for years down the line!

Next, it's also important to watch for signs of moisture. Moisture from rainfall or condensation can become trapped beneath unfinished areas of a deck, resulting in rot and mold growth over time. To avoid this, take precautions and read our next section about how to keep an eye out for hidden moisture on your deck....

Watch for Signs of Moisture

Watching for signs of moisture on your deck is an important element when applying wood sealer. Without adequate protection, moisture can penetrate the sealed surface, quickly eroding it away and leaving your treated surface vulnerable to further damage. Moisture can also give rise to mold, mildew and other damaging elements that can reduce the lifespan of your deck’s new seal.

Unfortunately, many wood sealers are not waterproof, meaning they fail to seal out all moisture from absorbing into the wood. But even a basic waterproof sealant protects against the biggest threat – standing water – which should be the first sign of moisture you look for. If standing water is present on your deck, take steps to correct this prior to applying a sealant.

The second major sign of moisture to look for is discoloration or rotting of any individual boards or balusters that could indicate potential moisture penetration. Additionally, if your deck has seen regular use over time, most likely some staining has occurred as a result of heavy foot traffic or inclement weather conditions. Check these areas thoroughly and take appropriate measures to clean the surface completely before sealing.When in doubt, it may be beneficial to hire a professional contractor who specializes in wood deck restoration and waterproofing to evaluate your deck situation and make sure no hidden signs of moisture have gone undetected.

Taking the initiative to watch for signs of moisture on your deck before sealing will go a long way toward ensuring optimum protection and longevity of your wood sealer application.


When it comes to protecting a deck from the elements, applying wood sealer is key in providing maximum protection. The process of sealing is relatively simple and should be done yearly for a longer lasting outcome. It requires minimal materials, making it more cost effective than the alternative of replacing damaged boards or planks.

After prepping the surface of the deck, a sealer must be chosen carefully and applied using either brushing or spraying techniques according to manufacturer instructions. Aging decks may also require additional measures such as sanding or recoating prior to applying a new sealer every one or two years.

Regardless of which method is used, applying wood sealer to your deck is an important step that adds longevity and prevents it from becoming faded and deteriorated while ensuring maximum protection. Ultimately, by investing the time and effort into taking care of your deck with a sealer, you can reap long-term rewards in the form of improved performance and extended life for your deck.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of wood sealer is best for my deck?

The best type of wood sealer for your deck depends on a few factors, including the type of wood, where you live and the look that you desire. For example, if you live in a wet climate and have cedar wood, then an oil-based wood sealer would be the best option.

Oil-based wood sealers penetrate deeply into the wood grain and protect against weather damage, while also offering a beautiful finish that enhances the color of the wood. Alternatively, if you want to maintain a natural appearance for your deck but still need protection from the elements, a water-based acrylic sealer may be the better choice. 

Water-based sealers are easy to apply and provide effective moisture protection without changing the natural aesthetic of the wood. Ultimately, it is important to choose a high quality sealer that comes with a warranty so that you can feel confident in its long-lasting durability.

Are there any additional tips for applying wood sealer to a deck?

When applying a wood sealer to a deck, it's important to remember that proper preparation is key. Start by cleaning your deck with soft brushes and a mild detergent solution to remove any dirt or debris. Allow the deck to dry completely before proceeding.

Once the deck is clean and dry, it's time to apply the sealer. Start by protecting plants and shrubs near the deck with plastic coverings or tarps. Also ensure that you are wearing protective gear such as gloves, goggles, and a respirator when handling and applying the sealer.

Applying the sealer should be done in even strokes in one direction so that all parts of the wood are evenly sealed. If possible, use a paint sprayer for an even application. Make sure not to overlap layers of sealer as it can cause staining on the wood surface. Finally, apply two coats of sealer and let them dry between applications for maximum protection.

What are the main steps for applying wood sealer to a deck?

The main steps for applying wood sealer to a deck are relatively simple, but they still require attention and preparation. First, clean the deck to remove any dirt, dust, or grime that can reduce the effectiveness of the sealer. Use a mild cleaner along with a stiff brush and then rinse the deck off with a water hose. Allow the deck adequate time to dry before beginning the sealing process.

Second, stir or shake the wood sealer according to manufacturer instructions. Pouring it directly onto your deck could lead to uneven application. It’s also important to use a roller or brush labeled for outdoor use that’s specifically designed for wood surfaces to make sure the sealer is applied in a consistent way.

Third, apply the sealer in thin layers over your entire deck. This will help ensure fully coverage and avoid areas with too-thick coats of sealer that may not dry properly and decrease effectiveness. As you work, pay particular attention to seams where boards join together as these are easier points of entry for moisture and should receive extra attention when sealing.

Finally, inspect your work thoroughly once you’ve finished coating your entire deck with sealer. Areas with water spots or discoloration may need to be resealed in order to provide even protection across your entire deck surface. Reapply yearly (or longer if needed) as recommended by the manufacturer in order to maintain maximum protection against weather and wear-and-tear factors like UV rays.

About the author

Hey, I'm Dale Keese.. thanks for reading.. hopefully this article can save you some time and trouble with your sealing job. I'm also in the process of making some video walk-throughs for youtube so check back soon! thanks

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