Do You Have To Remove Old Stain Before Restaining?

May 21, 2021

Should I remove the old damaged stain before restaining?

At some point or the other, everyone with a stained wooden deck will have to face the task of renewing the stains. If you are in this category of people, we’d like to tell you you’re not alone. It is also a safe bet that you’re wondering if you’ll need to strip the old stain before applying the new one. Otherwise, you won’t be here. 

Well, we can tell you this — you’ll find the answers you need in this blog post.

You probably don’t need us to tell you the vital role of stains on your deck or any wood surface, for that matter. Indeed, stains not only boost your deck’s aesthetic quality but also help protect the wood. Therefore, it is crucial that you replace them when they start to fade.

Now here’s the question you and several others are wondering — do I have to peel the old stain off my deck before restaining?

In this blog post, you’ll gain some insight into how to go about retaining a previously stained deck. More specifically, we’ll tell you whether you need to remove the old stain or not. You’ll also discover some tips on finding a middle ground between the new stain and the old.

That said, let’s jump right into it!

Can I Restain a Deck Without Removing the Old Stain?

The truth is, there is no outrightly wrong or right answer to this question. But, they are some agelong tips that can push you in the best direction for your deck. 

Naturally, it is usually better to prepare your deck surface for restaining by removing the old stain. This is so that the new stain penetrates properly and adheres to the wood surface beneath. Otherwise, you may risk improper staining, in which case peeling may occur prematurely. 

Moreover, peeling the old stain on your deck will ensure that the new stain’s freshness and shine are very apparent.

Here are some other benefits of stripping old stain off your deck before restaining:

  • It removes deposits of dust particles on the deck.
  • Stain strippers have a dual function of eliminating mold as well as mildew on your deck.
  • Most importantly, it strengthens the adhesiveness between the new stain and the deck wood.

However, this is not to say you always have to strip the existing stain whenever you need to restain your deck. Or that if you don’t, the new stain won’t stay on the deck surface. In other words, you can indeed restain your deck without peeling the older stain, depending on specific factors. 

Yes, we said it. There are several scenarios in which you apply your new stain without bothering with removing the old. Let us explore some of these instances. 

  • If your deck has a topcoat seal, you typically cannot restain it. As such, there is no need to contemplate peeling off the existing finish. Indeed, you can cover the deck with a coating. 
  • If you’re using a polyurethane stain blend that has a wood tone, you can simply work it over the existing stain. Indeed, these unique blends are intended for that specific purpose. 
  • If you plan to apply a dark stain over a stain with a lighter tone, there may be no need to peel the old one. This is because the newer stain will easily cover the already existing stain.
  • If you’re mixing multiple stains to create a unique DIY blend, leaving the old blend in place may improve the resulting ‘artsyness.’
  • Finally, if you carry out an integrity test on your old deck stain and it passes, there may be no need to strip off the old stain. 

So you see, while stripping off old stain is decidedly crucial to the success of a new stain in some cases, it is not a set-in-stone rule. 

This begs the next big question ‘how do you know whether your old deck stain needs stripping or not?’ Well, we’ll get into that in a bit. So, don’t stop reading.

How To Determine If Your Old Deck Stain Needs Stripping Before Restaining

We’ve already established not every deck needs to lose its old stain before a new one can come on it. However, in some cases, this stripping is a critical step you cannot afford to skip. How can you tell when to peel off your old stain and when you can get by without doing it?

To help you, we have broken down our analysis into two different scenarios:

When the Previous Finish is a Solid Stain

If the first coat on your deck is a solid stain, you may not be able to tell if it needs stripping by simply looking at it. Not to worry, we’ll walk you through how to reach an accurate conclusion.

  • Using a sharp blade, make a shallow ‘X’ cut at several points on your deck. 
  • Make sure to make these incisions at both high-traffic and low-traffic areas.
  • Also, ensure you don’t cut into the actual wood (you should be cutting into the finished surface).
  • After making the ‘X’ cuts, cover them with a duct tape piece and rub down on the tape firmly.
  • Then, quickly peel off the tape.

If you can see flakes from the stain on the sticky side of the duct tape, then you have to peel off the existing deck stain before restaining. In this case, you can use paint strippers to aid the peeling process.

When the Previous Stain is a Semi-permanent Stain

In this case, determining if the stain has to come off takes an entirely different process. Here’s how to do it:

  • The first thing you need to do is clean your deck thoroughly and give it at least four hours to air dry.
  • Then, pour little amounts of water on both high-traffic and low-traffic sections of the deck.
  • If the water beads up (forms tiny drops) and remains there, it means there is still considerable stain-surface on the deck. In this case, you will need to strip the existing stain.
  • However, if the water pools and starts to sink into the wood within 10 minutes, it indicates the stain has worn off considerably. Here you can restain without stripping if you choose to.

Wrapping It All Up

Hopefully, this article has helped you gain the insight you need to successfully restain your deck. Remember, while you don’t always have to strip the old stain before applying the new one, it can sometimes be crucial that you do. 

You can use the above tests to determine if there is a need to do the stripping. Depending on the result you get, you can carry on from there.

If you have more questions, please let us know. Otherwise, we wish you an enjoyable restraining project!

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