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DIY project: Repainting my deck and porch to save money

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Solid acrylic stain covers both my front porch and rear deck, and both were badly in need of paint jobs. Staining my porch and deck is the biggest DIY project I've attempted so far. I'm far from an expert, but I thought some of my experiences as a rank amateur may help others who have considered taking on such an endeavor to save money by not hiring someone else to do the work.

In this article, I use the words stain and paint interchangeably. I bought deck and porch stain, but it's a solid acrylic product and sure looked like paint to me. I even used leftover stain from my porch to paint the front door.

Start by researching online, but also ask an experienced and knowledgeable friend. It seemed like what I found online assumed I already knew what I was doing and what I needed to buy. I had no idea what I was doing, but got some good advice from a friend to help me along.

Next, make sure you really want to do this yourself. Staining your porch and deck is hard, exhausting work that'll take many hours to complete. Between the power washing and painting, count on taking up at least a weekend and a couple of week nights for a medium-sized deck. If you're doing a deck plus a front porch like I was, count on two weekends and several week nights.

I've exercised regularly for many years, but the power washing and painting wore me out. Plus, I had sore muscles from crouching and reaching in ways my body wasn't accustomed to.

Watch the weather and prepare to improvise
Watch the weather and prepare to improvise Beth McIntire

Watch the weather and prepare to improvise

  • Make sure the forecast calls for dry weather for a few days. You need a day to power wash and have it dry overnight. Then, you need nice weather so you can paint and let it dry overnight. Later, when you add the second coat, you again need sunny painting weather and no rain while the stain dries.
     
  • Work when the sun doesn't shine, at least not directly on you. My rear deck gets the afternoon sun, so I tried to do most of my deck work in the mornings. Even on days when the temps were not unbearably hot - just in the 80s - working on the deck in the direct sunlight felt like working in a sauna.
     
  • Be prepared to improvise. You'll need a broomstick, which you can probably unscrew from a broom or mop, for your paint roller, when you stain the floor. You can also use it for reaching up from the ground if your deck is on the second floor and you need to paint the bottom sides. For getting all the hard to reach spots on a second floor deck, you may need to duct tape a paint sponge to your broomstick and reach up from the ground.
Buy enough paint and supplies
Buy enough paint and supplies Beth McIntire

Buy enough paint and supplies

  • Know your deck's square footage and make sure to buy enough paint for two coats, plus have extra leftover for touch ups later. Also, I sprang for the good stuff when it came to stain. After reading through many online reviews, I bought the Olympus 10-year product from Lowes for about $36 a gallon. I'm sure it won't last 10 years, but I'll be happy with 5 to 7 years. My deck was last painted less than 3 years ago and has looked bad for the past year.
     
  • I'm so glad I took my friend's advice and put on two coats of stain, on both the deck and porch. The Olympus can instructions say to use two coats as well. As I was rolling on the second coat, I could see areas that didn't get good coverage on the initial coating, and the whole job looked a lot better after the second go-round.
     
  • Buy plenty of materials. You'll need several paint brushes of different sizes, a few paint sponges (on sticks) and at least six to eight 4" x 3/4" rollers and a roller handle. I also recommend buying a smaller roller handle and a couple of the 2" rollers, for painting in smaller spaces. Also get two or more plastic paint trays, which cost about $2 each.
     
  • Rollers are disposable - for a medium-sized deck, you'll probably go through two rollers per coat of paint. You can try washing them, but it's not worth it. They cost about $3 each and will be totally shot by the time you're ready to wash them. Cheap paint brushes are pretty much disposable, too. You probably don't want to shell out for expensive brushes unless you plan to do a lot of painting. However, you may not get additional usage out of the inexpensive ones.
Clean up as you go
Clean up as you go Beth McIntire

Clean up as you go

  • Have a pile of old newspapers and wet rags when you paint. You want to sit your paint can on the newspapers and make sure you pound it shut every time you open it to pour paint into the tray.
     
  • You need to clean up any drips on your siding immediately if you see them, so have a few wet rags nearby. Otherwise, you'll use significant elbow grease later on trying to scrape them off. Also, put down some newspaper where you'll be walking into the house and immediately remove your shoes so you don't track paint onto your carpets and linoleum.
     
  • Wear old clothes and shoes. Paint won't come out of your shoes, pants, shirt and socks. And you will have paint all over yourself, which brings me to another point, which is to buy some Borax hand cleaner. You'll need it to scrub the paint off yourself. I recommend wearing pants rather than shorts if you can stand it, so you don't have to scrub a bunch of paint off your legs.
     
  • Oh, and before you even start painting, count on getting soaking wet when you do the preliminary power washing. The back splatter of water from any power washer will give you a good drenching.
Glasses or sunglasses are a problem
Glasses or sunglasses are a problem Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images

Glasses or sunglasses are a problem

  • Avoid wearing sunglasses. My poor sensitive eyes begged for sun protection, but I kept missing spots and doing a generally poor painting job anytime I put on sunglasses. They also get sweaty and uncomfortable in warm weather.

    I couldn't even wear sunglasses or goggles during power washing, even though the safety instructions advised doing so. The back spray of water made it impossible to see if I wore anything over my eyes.
Bask in your accomplishment
Bask in your accomplishment Beth McIntire

Bask in your accomplishment

Painting my deck and porch took an enormous amount of time and work, but the finished product gave me a huge feeling of accomplishment. It also saved me several hundred dollars over hiring someone else to do it.

Counting the power washer, which I can keep using for other jobs in the future, I probably spent about $200 to $250 in paint and materials. A friend with a similarly sized deck and porch recently solicited quotes for repainting, with the lowest bid coming in around $675 including power washing. I don't know whether that included materials or two coats of stain.

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