Problems With Acrylic Deck Stain Peeling Off Decking Boards

by David
(Tacoma, WA)

After Lightly Spraying Deck With Hose

After Lightly Spraying Deck With Hose

We bought our house in Tacoma, Washington last November. Sometime last year the previous owners painted the deck and I've included a picture of what they used, as they left the remainder for touch-up. After a few months I started using the regular water hose with a sprayer on it to hose off leaves and such. Immediately the paint started falling away. It looked great before that. I have no idea what kind of wood the deck is made from. There is no warping or rotting. Nothing of that nature.

Maybe they didn't sand it. Maybe they didn't have it dry before applying paint. I just don't know what they did wrong but my task is to fix it so it looks good and lasts a very long time.

I was going to sand it down but after watching a few videos I'm thinking my back would much prefer power washing. Once the paint is off, then scrub with a deck cleaner.

Is this sounding okay so far? Then what?

Should I go with a light stain and then follow up with a sealer? I just bought a can of Thompson's Water Seal Sealer.

The only thing I'm hesitant about is that IF the paint didn't stick due to some other chemical on the wood, then power-washing isn't going to clean that and I'll have to sand it after all.

I'd love to hear what some of you folks with far more experience than I have.

Editor's Comments

David's problem is one that is faced by homeowners across the country whether you live in the wetter Northwest, the Northeast or Midwest, or pretty much anywhere except maybe New Mexico. But even there ,the sun is extremely harsh and other challenges arise.

Staining a deck is a topic that is something I know very personally and I have used Behr Premium for my cedar deck. I used the semi-transparent whereas you used the solid color. There has been a real push to using acrylics over the years because it's much easier to clean up and probably poses less of an environment concern if you have unused stain. But oil based solutions seems to penetrate deeper and last longer on flat decking surfaces but are more difficult to clean up.

How To Apply Acrylic Stain

Applying the stain is critical for any hope of success. And keep in mind success really is two years maximum before having to re-apply. You live in Tacoma and so wet winters are the norm. But I live in the Northeast where cold, damp, sleet, slush and snow is the reality. So both environments take their toll on stains and acrylic stains are the easiest to destroy in my experience.

Every spring my wife is on me to get out there and sand off all the peeling stain and re-apply. I faithfully fulfill my domestic duties.

If you read the instructions closely it says to apply during cooler day, not under direct sunlight. Also use a brush not a roller and apply a very light coat. Follow this religiously. If you put is on too this and this is very easy to over do, you will almost immediately see bubbles form especially if the sun is out. Right off the bat, you know it did not adhere properly. Apply it very lightly on a dry but cloudy day at about 68°-70°F. That is your best hope for an acrylic stain.

Careful When Pressure Washing

Be very careful about pressure washing. Keep the pressure low. Keep the hose at a low angle. Do not blast away the wood. There have been lots of stories of people with cedar shingle or shake roofs going up and spraying down the roof with a pressure washer and they thought the finished roof looked so beautiful. Little did they know they blasted away all the natural oils and chemicals in the wood that gave it stability and rot resistance. In a few years entire subdivisions of homes had to have their nice cedar roofs replaced because rot set in very quickly.

Use a hose perhaps to clean away the obvious surface mess. But in my humble opinion there is no other way to fix this then to use an orbital palm sander and sand away or smooth the edges of the stain and apply another coat.

Don't Necessarily Blame The Builder

There is a tendency to rush to blame the builder. I would not do that unless I was absolutely sure he did it improperly. You do not have to sand the boards before applying the stain. Softwood readily laps up stain. Hardwoods on the other hand will only take an oil and only in very thin applications. The problem seems to be that this is just the nature of the product you are using. It does not adhere very well in even the best of situations from my experience.

Stains To Consider

Here are some products I might suggest you consider. Keep in mind I have not used them but I have heard others have and not horror stories. But do your due diligence. You can try Flood wood stain or Cutek. You will note these manufacturers offer their product in an oil based option. I for one am going to avoid using acrylics forever. But since my deck is down I am now a slave to it and have to keep going with the acrylic stain every spring. I do think the oil based products will improve things.

Applying A Solid Covering Stain

There are products in your paint shop that you can use to apply over other stains and it is a very hard an impervious finish. This is more of a final solutions but it may be something you wish to consider. Of course for anyone reading this, the lesson is that if you go with a wood deck you save a lot of money up front but you do have annual maintenance. If you choose composites, synthetics or hard woods or thermal wood you pay more upfront but do far less maintenance. Many composites. So everything is a give and take. I hope this helps you out a bit.

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