How to Remove Flaking Deck Stain

Make your deck look like new!

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Even the best solid-color deck stains eventually flake away. To make an old deck look new again, strip off all the old finish, then clean, recondition and stain the wood.

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Angle grinder
  • Cordless drill
  • Dust mask
  • Knee pads
  • Nail set
  • Paintbrush
  • Rags
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Stiff brush
  • Stripping discs

Materials Required

  • Deck stain remover
  • Deck wood brightener/conditioner
  • Masking tape
  • Plastic drop cloth
  • Stain or finish

Strip and Renew Wood Before Restaining

If the stain on your deck is weathered and peeling, the first step in renewing your deck is to remove all the stain. Solid-color stains protect wood decks and look great when new, but even the best solid color deck stain eventually flakes and wears away. At that point, they need to be scraped and stripped off before the deck can be recoated. In this article we’ll walk you through staining a previously stained deck.

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Scrub off the solid color deck stain

remove flaking deck stainFamily Handyman

First, scrape off as much of the old solid color deck stain as you can with a paint scraper as a deck stripper. As you scrape the wood, reset any nails or screws that stick out from the wood surface.

Next, strip the deck with a special deck stain remover (1 gallon covers 100 sq. ft.). Tape plastic over nearby siding, cover or wet down bushes and grass around the deck, then spread a heavy coat of stain remover over the stained boards. Scrub off old stain using a stiff brush and deck finish remover. Give the remover 15 to 30 minutes to soften the stain before you scrub. Cover 20 to 30 sq. ft. at a time, keeping the wood wet until the finish is soft enough to be scrubbed off with a stiff brush.

Step 2

Sand the wood

sanding deck with angle grinderFamily Handyman

Rinse the residue off with a hose and allow the deck to dry. Use a coarse stripping disc on areas that are heavily discolored or where the stain doesn’t come off. The rough discs work much faster than belt or orbital sanders. They’re available for either angle grinders (the fastest option) or drills (much slower).

Step 3

Stripping Disc

Stripping disc deck stainFamily Handyman

Stripping discs are faster and more effective than regular sanders and work best on angle grinders as a deck stripper.

Step 4


condition deckFamily Handyman

Finally, use a deck brightener/conditioner to neutralize the stain remover and clean and restore the wood to something close to its original color. One gallon covers roughly 200 sq. ft. Brush on a brightener/conditioner diluted in water. Scrub the decking and rinse thoroughly to restore the original wood color.

After the wood dries, restain or apply a clear penetrating finish. Clear finishes show more of the wood’s original color but must be reapplied every year. Solid stains protect the wood longer but can be a pain to scrape off. Penetrating stains also need to be reapplied more frequently, but unlike solid stains, they don’t need to be stripped off. And now you’re ready to take on staining a previously stained deck this spring.

Here are some of the best tips and products for a great looking deck that will last decades.