The wooden fence was never treated, or if it had been when it was built, it was never touched or maintained after that. The deck had been stained at one point in time but was pealing, weathering, and showing signs of serious neglect. My neighbor's wooden privacy fence dividing our yards is well-cared for and standing strong and sturdy. I've always wanted to match my fence and deck with his fence in order to give our backyard a classy and seamless look.
My neighbor and I had a discussion about his fence and he shared with me the brand and color of stain: Cabot. He stated he did a great deal of research in picking a stain and Cabot is where he landed. He shared it has kept the wood preserved and protected from the elements--he would never use any other product.
Disclaimer: Cabot products will be some of the most expensive you will buy. Regular price, this stain will start at $30 plus per gallon depending on what you choose. The one I purchased was $40 some dollars per gallon but I stocked up on it at Menards when they had a rebate sale per gallon which helped. You pay for what you get, so if you truly are interested in long-term preservation, aesthetic, and life-span of your fence/deck, spending more for a better product is a no-brainer.
Here are the steps of my successful re-finishing project.
I used a palm sander and belt sander to remove the remaining stain on the deck. I've discovered that this can be tedious but if you skimp on this initial preparation process you are wasting time, energy, and money refinishing because there will not be a clean, solid surface for the new stain to soak into the boards and bond.
After sanding, it is critical to remove any sawdust particles or other remnants. I first swept the entire deck and then used my Shop Vac to vacuum up the remainder. You can never be too sure.
Because the deck had a substandard stain put on it, even after sanding, the wood underneath was dirty and there were spots of mold and mildew growing on it. The next step was to pressure wash the deck. For this I purchased 30 Second Outdoor Cleaner. I mixed this in my sprayer and sprayed it on the deck. Then I used a pressure washer to remove the layers of whatever was on the wood. Honestly, this worked better than I thought. The pressure washer quickly removed thick layers of sludge. Another disclaimer here: wear clothes you don't intend to use again or clothes you don't care much for because the back splash will leave them covered. I threw away two t-shirts after this process. It's also wise to wear goggles to protect your eyes.
For the fence, I skipped the sanding part. Initially, I was concerned about not sanding the fence but the Outdoor Cleaner worked great in removing the outer layers and leaving a prepared surface for staining.
The directions on the Outdoor cleaner suggest waiting 24 to 48 hours before applying any stain or paint. This is a good rule to follow, even if you just pressure wash. You want to ensure the wood is clearly dried out and free of any moisture so that when you apply the stain the boards soak up a decent amount of the stain and you get even and clear adherance.
Finally, the last step is applying the actual stain. You can use a sprayer or sponge, but after some research and starting with a sprayer, I quickly abandoned that method and went to the tried and true brush method. The sprayer would have dramatically cut down the work time but it just looked thick and I was using a lot of stain for the coverage area. Cabot actually recommends a brush even though they say you can use a sprayer. The brush more evenly spread the stain and allowed the product to soak into the wood.
Final disclaimer: this was a time-intensive process. The multiple steps involved to do this correctly meant that the project lasted months because I didn't have a week of consistent work time. Rather, I just worked on each step each weekend when I was off of work.
The time and effort on this restoration was definitely worth it. The result is beautiful and has really classed-up our back yard.
And I'm certain it also extended the life of the fence and deck. The first rain on the newly re-finished surface impressed me when I went out to inspect how it held up. The water was beading and being repelled from the surface.
Now I just need to maintain this wood over time instead of leaving it to its own defense like the previous owners.