Deck staining enhances the look of your wood and helps prevent moisture from soaking into your decking wood or structure, providing much-needed protection from molds, rot, and decay.

But these protective coats do not last forever. So you must reapply the stain every once in a while. This begs the question, do I need to remove old stain before restaining a deck?

In this post, I’ll talk about the following;

  • Do I Need To Remove Old Stain Before Restaining a Deck?
  • How To Know When It Is Time For Restaining Your Deck
  • Why/When Can It Be Unnecessary To Remove Old Stains Before Restaining A Deck?
  • What Determines How a Deck Behaves When Aging? 
  • Stripping Versus Cleaning Your Deck Before Restaining
  • When Does My Deck Need To Be Stripped Before Re-staining? 
  • How To Prepare Your Deck For Restaining With The Same Stain Brand, Type, And Color

Do I Need to Remove Old Stain Before Restaining a Deck?

You do not ALWAYS have to strip off old stains when staining a previously stained deck if you are applying the same stain type, color, and brand as the old one. Since deck stains penetrate deep into the wood, they prevent moisture buildup and protect your deck from mold UV rays and rot.

How To Know When It Is Time For Restaining Your Deck

The first step to knowing when to restain your wooden deck is to check when it starts sucking up moisture or begins to fade, look dingy, or flake. 

Usually, your deck should begin to show signs of weathering and require a new stain after every two to five years.

Important Question: Should I Stain or Paint My Deck?

Why/When Can it be Unnecessary to Remove Old Stains Before Restaining a Deck?   

Since you will not always have to remove the old coat of existing stain before restaining, it is essential to know when to do what. Here are the circumstances that would make it unnecessary to strip off old stains before applying a new coat. 

1. Deck Stain Contains Varnish 

Deck-specific stains usually come already mixed with varnish, making them viable for recoating. However, this restaining on top of a precious coat is only possible under these conditions: 

  • You must use the same product with the same formula as before. Consider checking with the manufacturer to ensure they have not altered the formula.
  • The existing stain must be the same brand. Using an identical product from the same manufacturer means they have the same formulation, eliminating any room for incompatibility.
  • Use a water-based deck stain if the previous one was water-based, and an oil-based stain if the old deck stain was oil-based. 

If these conditions are satisfied, you will not need to strip the old failing stains before applying a new coat. All you will need to do is use a quality deck cleaner to prep the surface before you re stain the same deck finish. 

2. When Using a Lighter-colored or Translucent Old Stain

A lighter-colored or translucent old stain allows you to add a coat over it when re-staining, making it darker. The wood stain color will also determine whether it is practical to stain over it or not.

3. When the Deck is Slightly Weathered

Stripping the old coat of deck stain will not be necessary if your previously stained deck is only fading, sucking up moisture, or looking dingy. 

Instead, washing the deck with a quality deck cleaner and pressure washer will be sufficient if you are dealing with your slightly weathered deck. The washing should be sufficient enough to remove the accumulated dust particles and dirt on its surface. 

But you will need to remove the old layer of stain from the wood deck if it is flaking and worn. Such a layer is not sound enough to hold another coat of stain on top. A fresh wood stain needs a solid surface to go onto.

While you will be able to skip the sanding and using a chemical deck stripper on your previously stained deck under these circumstances, you must thoroughly clean, rinse it, and let it dry for at least 24 hours before applying a fresh coat.

Important Read: How to Dispose of Old Stain

What Determines How a Deck Behaves When Aging?

The aging behavior of wood stains mainly depends on the two factors:

Stains Types

Stains can be water-based or oil-based-based in type.

Stain Formulation

Stains can come in solid, semi-solid, transparent, and semi transparent deck stain.

So let’s compare transparent vs semi transparent deck stain.

Semi transparent stain allow the wood fibers, texture, and color to remain visible, same as transparent stains. On the other hand, solid stains tends to mask the wood grain and color, leaving only the texture.

Stripping Versus Cleaning Your Deck Before Restaining

You can strip or clean your previously stained deck before restaining. Despite the preparation method you select, they involve different procedures and levels of efficiency.

1. Application Process

You’ll apply a stripping solvent to the stained deck surface where you want to remove the stain and leave it on for some time to react with the wooden deck stain and loosen it.

Once the cocktail emulsifies, you can then use a scraper to strip off the debris and finish with steel wool and sandpaper in case there are wood pores or uneven surfaces.

In most cases, you will need to apply a neutralizer on all the wood after stripping stains from it using a chemical stripper. The neutralizer helps restore the wood’s pH before you finish.

On the other hand, wood that is not severely weathered will benefit from simply cleaning it with an all-purpose deck cleaner containing a mild detergent or an embedded dirt use cleaner. This is effective in removing dirt, dust, and grease, leaving the surface ready for re-staining.

Interesting Read: Best Deck Stain Brush

2. Efficiency and Cost

Stripping can be costly because of the supplies and steps involved. When using a chemical stain stripper, you need to apply the cleaning solvent, and let it stay for some time as recommended on its label before washing and rinsing the surface.

Ideally, cleaning is a more straightforward process compared to stripping a deck, therefore efficient and cheap. It is less labor-intensive, less time-consuming, and less invasive to your decking material.

When Does My Deck Need To Be Stripped Before Re-staining? 

We have mentioned that removing the entire layer of wood stain from a previously stained deck is not always necessary before you restain. And, we have given the instances where this can apply.

Now, some conditions will make it inevitable to use wood stain remover before you restain it. So let’s have a look at these situations.

When Applying a Lighter Shade

If you want to apply stain with a lighter shade on a surface that previously had a darker color, you will need to strip the old, darker one out. This is the case whether both the stains are from the same manufacturer or not. 

Wood deck staining works by absorbing into the wood grain. So, if you apply a darker shade of wood stain, you cannot make the stain lighter unless you strip off that layer from the surface of the wood. Then, you would have to sand it off a little deeper to get much of that dark shade out.

You will have no problem with the current layer if you apply the same stain color or a darker tint. You can choose to leave it on, provided it is the same color, type, and brand. Remember to use a duct tape to cover areas you don’t want stained.

When Using a Different Deck Stain Type and Brand

Stains will only be compatible and eligible for recoating if they are the same—that means, from the same manufacturer and with the same formula. 

If you want to restain your deck boards with a different stain type or a different color, consider stripping the old coat and light sanding the strip boards before applying a new layer. And, of course, don’t forget to stain the deck between boards to ensure a consistent and professional finish.

When Previous Layer is a Solid Color Stain

If your deck has a previous layer of solid stain (opaque stain) on it, you will need to remove the solid stain if you intend to use a different type of stain, such as a semi transparent deck stain. Applying the latter over solid color stains may not last. 

A semi transparent stain is formulated to penetrate wood grain. Having a layer of solid stain beneath it will impede its ability to penetrate the wood surface and work correctly.

Besides, solid deck stains tend to peel when weathered. Trying to apply stain using a brush or a paint sprayer over such a peeling stain may be a terrible idea. The old stain is likely to peel off, carrying the new coat with it.

Interesting Post: Restoring Splintered Wood on a Deck

How To Prepare Your Deck For Restaining With The Same Color, Stain Brand, and Type 

Restaining a deck the same color is a simple process;

  • Wash and rinse the surface with a pressure washer and an all-purpose deck cleaner containing a mild detergent to remove dirt particles from the deck as dust prevents proper adhesion.
  • Use a brighten decking or restorative cleaner to clean your deck if it has weathered and grayed. 
  • Consider cleaning with a mildewcide cleaner if our deck has molds or mildew on it. 
  • Always pay attention to the instructions on the label, whether you are using a cleaning agent or stripping. 
  • Have your protective gear on regardless of the product you are using. 
  • Use a natural-bristle brush or hose with an applicator attachment to apply the cleaner. Here are other
  • Always work from one side of your deck to the other when applying the cleaner, and scrub in a single direction. The idea is to get a clean bare wood surface and not to remove the entire coat of old stain. 
  • Use a towel to squeeze or wipe dry any puddles forming while you clean. 
  • Always let the deck dry for approximately 24 to 48 hours before applying the new stain on the clean surface. Read more on how long should deck stain dry before rain.


How to restain a deck without stripping

To restain a deck without stripping, clean and rinse the deck first. Let the wood dry for 24 to 48 hours, then apply a deck stain stripper. Once you’ve applied the stripper, let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes, then scrub it with a stiff brush. Rinse the deck with a garden hose, then let it dry for 1-2 days. Apply a deck sealer or wood conditioner.

Can you stain over stain on a deck?

Yes, you can stain over stain on deck. The new stain will not completely cover the old stain, but it should blend somewhat and will help to protect the deck from further weathering. It is a good idea to use a sealant or wax after staining to help protect the wood and keep it looking nice for longer.

Do you have to remove old stain before restaining?

No. It’s possible to stain over an existing stain, so you don’t have to remove your old stain. At least do this after every 5-15 years. The new stain will not be exactly the same as the old one, so it’s important to test it on a small patch before you do the whole deck. Also, make sure to use a good deck cleaner and stripper before you start staining.

Do I Need To Remove Old Stain Before Restaining a Deck- Final Verdict

So, do I need to remove the old stain before applying the new stain on a deck? Not always. You can always stain on top of another layer of stain under certain conditions. One, if you are using the same stain type, and two; the old coat is not peeling off or flaking. 

If you’re looking to transform your deck with a fresh coat of paint, feel free to pick a product from our list of best colors to paint deck.

What to Do Next?

Be sure not to ruin your freshly restained deck by walking on it too soon. Check out our guide on How Long Should Deck Stain Dry Before Walking On It?

Leave a Comment