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The following describes our process for evaluating the condition of a deck, testing for stain removal, applying stripping chemical, pressure washing, applying brightener and clean-up.

We’ve created a material list, a step by step guide and a quiz to test your knowledge.

Tools Needed:

Many of these tools can be purchased from your local hardware store.  We’ve included links to our Amazon store, which helps support our how-to program.


1.  Pre-Arrival

Please refer to service standards post for instructions on how to communicate with a client and organize for a job.

2. Cleaning Evaluation

** For a guide to operation and maintenance of a pressure washer click here.

** For a guide to operation and maintenance of a battery powered sprayer click here.

Option 1:

  • Refer to work order details on what the final restoration goal is. If work order states stripping/conditioning for a full restore with intention of applying a penetrating oil stain such as TWP then test to make sure we can strip at least 90 percent of the old stain.  Using Pressure Washer, Downstream RAD stripper (with high draw chemical injector) to a couple areas to check for stain emulsification.  If the previous stain is a penetrating oil or it doesn’t have a sheen then RAD stripper will most likely be effective.  If RAD works, continue to step 4.

Option 2:

  • If RAD is ineffective, proceed to test with HD80 stripper.  HD80 stripper is applied from a pump sprayer or battery operated sprayer.  For testing, you can also use a small hand pump.  The solution at full strength is mixed at 8 oz per gallon.  Ideally, you want the minimum amount of strength to effectively remove old stain.  The stronger the solution, the more the wood fibers will become furry from cleaning.  If HD80 at full strength does not work, try adding a splash of F-13 gutter grenade.  This will boost the strength of the stripping chemical.  If that solution is effective, you may also want to add cling on so the stripper does not run off vertical surfaces.  The longer the stripper can dwell on the surface, the better our chances will be of effectively stripping.

Option 3:

  • If none of the above steps work to remove the previous stain and our intention or bid proposal was to strip to apply a translucent stain then we need to adjust our bid and our process.  Explain to customer the stripping process was ineffective and in order to stain the deck and have a uniform look we will need to apply a semi transparent, semi solid or solid stain.  Our most common go to would be super deck semi transparent oil based stain.  A color pamphlet is located in each vehicle and should be left with the customer so they can select a color.  Since the semi-transparent stain is somewhat translucent, its always best to instruct the client to pick a color that is close in color to their previous deck stain.
  • If it is decided a chemical strip will not be effective or the work order states will will not be stripping, apply conditioner/brightener followed with a light pressure wash to remove dirt.  We will not be applying the stripping chemical.  Stripping chemical at this point would only cause spotting and make the deck look less uniform when a new stain is applied over the top of the old stain.

3.  Safety Gear

  • Chemicals being used are harsh on your skin, lungs and eyes.  Protective gear includes work boots, rain gear, gloves, glasses, hat and a respirator.  If chemical comes into direct contact with skin rinse with water.  If chemical gets into eyes, flush with water for 15-20 minutes.

4. Stripping/Cleaning

  • After deciding the best course of action for cleaning, wet down the house and surrounding plants.
  • Delicate plants should first be wet down, covered with plastic or drop sheet.  Immediately after spraying chemical remove the plastic and rinse plants lightly (light pressure rinse tip).  Covering plants for extended periods of time will kill plants.  When you start pressure washing the deck, the chemicals are diluted and will not harm the plants.  We only cover delicate plants to make sure chemical does not come in direct contact at full strength.
  • Apply stripping/cleaning chemical to the deck floor and railings.  If using RAD stripper, down stream with injector and a 4 way nozzle holder.
  • Attach gun extension with white tip.  As you pressure wash, mist surfaces you have not yet pressure washed to make sure the stripping/cleaning chemical stays active.  Its important to maintain a sweeping motion on the floor avoiding stop and start marks.  Pressure wash 2-3 boards at a time the length of the deck.
  • Pressure wash the interior railings and top rail.  If possible, pressure wash 3 sides of the ballusters so you leave yourself with less to do on the outside of the deck.
  • When working on stairs, remove extension wand and attach white tip directly to gun.  This is because the extension wand can become cumbersome working in a tight spaces.
  • After interior floor and railings are finished start cleaning outside railings.  Use a multi ladder and a ladder pivot tool where ground is uneven.

5. Brightening/Conditioning

  • Using pressure washer and 4 way nozzle holder, downstream RAD brightener to deck.  Whether our stripper is RAD stripper or HD80 stripper we brighten/condition the deck with RAD brightener.  Allow the brightener to sit on the surface for 10 minutes

6.  Rinse deck and house

  • Using extension wand with white pressure tip, start rinsing 8 ft above deck.  Rinse down to the deck and begin rinsing deck fibers/dirt end to end.  During this process you may need to re-rinse areas as fibers and dirt may blow back onto previously rinse surfaces.  After the deck is rinsed, rinse the siding below the deck.  Glass windows should be cleaned well and if the customer left screens in the windows, lightly rinse with the low pressure rinse tip.  Rinse off patio and any furniture which may have collected dirt or wood pulp.  When cleaning patio, rinse dirt onto edge of grass.  When you come back to stain, wood pulp will have hardened and dried on the edge of the patio.  Pick this debris up and throw into garbage bag.

7.  Allow deck to dry

  • Stains will differ in the amount of moisture content that is acceptable for stain application.  Typically, we wait for a day or two before coming back to sand and stain a deck.  Moisture content of the wood should be below 15% and tested in multiple areas using a moisture meter.

Next Steps:

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