Redwood Deck Restoration in 4 Not so Simple Steps

Written by on October 19, 2013 in Deck Maintenance, Project Resources with 2 Comments

This was one of our favorite and much anticipated projects of 2013 at Topcoat Finishes.

redwood deck restoration

Before: Weathered and failed Sikkens coating.

It was a decade or so old custom redwood deck in a harsh lakeside location with a badly failed Sikkens coating on it. The process of stripping a failed film forming coating is not for the faint of heart. Once you start, you are in it to win it.

Because decks are horizontal exterior surfaces, they have one of (if not THE) harshest weather exposure on the house. Often times, decks will hold up ok for a little while, and then fail quickly before the homeowner really knows it has happened.

Here are some guidelines that we recommend when hiring a professional for a redwood deck restoration.

1. Sample

redwood deck restoration

Always do a sample.

In order to figure out how the deck will strip and refinish, we recommend doing a preliminary sample to ponder during the process.

At the very least, it is a good idea to sand out part of a deck board, and apply finish samples so that you have a sense of the end goal.

This way, you can select and purchase the desired finish so that when the deck is sanded, finish can be applied immediately. Trust us on this one, deck stain is a decision that you want a few days to ponder.


2. Pressure Wash – Chemically Strip and Neutralize

redwood deck restoration

How it looks during final rinse, after chemical strip.

Honestly, the use of a pressure washer and stripping chemicals is best left to professionals with a track record of success in the field of chemically stripping decks.

The chems are hot, or caustic, and can do immense damage to people and property if not understood and used with discretion.

It is sufficient for the purposes of general discussion to say that chemical stripping is a two step process: stripping and neutralizing. If both are not done correctly and safely, the job will not go well.

The fundamental process here is a fairly radical chemical reaction in which the failed coating is released from the wood surface, and the ph balance of the wood is restored during the neutralizing step.

Stripping film coatings at this level is not a quick process. It requires many passes and reapplications of chemicals, and a great deal of clean water rinsing.

3. Let Deck Dry, Then Sand

redwood deck restoration

During the deck sanding step

It is important to allow a day or two of good drying weather before proceeding. Premature sanding of soft wood that is still any kind of damp can tear up the grain in a hurry.

Chemical stripping of decks raises the grain of the wood pretty dramatically. This is called “furring”. For proper and even stain penetration, it is critical to remove the furring through sanding.

Depending on the size of the deck, sometimes an upright floor style sander is the most efficient method. If this is not an option, aggressive electric hand sanders are a also an option. It is time consuming, and knee pads are required. Whatever sanding method is employed, be sure that proper dust containment is used. Topcoat attaches all of its sanders to hepa filtered dust extractors made by Festool. There is too much funky dust of organic matter to risk breathing it in.

4. Apply New Finish

redwood deck restoration

Apply a high quality penetrating oil, following the mfr specs.

On softer wood species, we prefer penetrating oil finishes to bring out the depth of the wood grain. Clear or slightly pigmented blends that contain transoxide pigments are a great choice. Always apply finish per the manufacturers specifications (read the can).

Please feel free to use the comment section below if you have questions about how Topcoat can handle your redwood deck restoration situation.

We also service all manner of decks in other wood species with the same level of care and expertise.

Contact Topcoat for a consultation on your deck.


Scott Burt

About the Author

About the Author: Scott Burt is a contractor and freelance writer whose column "From the Field" has appeared in American Painting Contractor magazine ( since 2008. His writing and projects also appear in other print and digital venues. .


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  1. Prep to Finish Training for Painters - How We Spent Summer Vacation | December 1, 2013
  1. Great Job Scott. I own http://www.Fine Line We refinish all kinds of wood decks in the east bay of northern California. After 15 years of wood restoration we have completed over 3500 wood restoration projects. Lets talk about how we can better the industry on our techniques and the tools we use to get the job done right. We are coming out with a new specialty tool that will be inexpensive and help you do a better job on your wood restoration projects. We have our prototype in hand already and will be ready to market this tool in a short 8 weeks. I’ll keep you posted when they are available with the website address.
    Thank you for your Consideration.
    Richard Houghton, Owner Fine Line Renovations.

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