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Should You Stain Underneath Your Deck?

a close up photo of a painter dipping a paint brush in stain on a deck

In this business, clients often ask us about staining the underside of decks. Typically, a homeowner approaches this question from one of two concerns; they want their deck to look better or they want their deck to be protected. Deck maintenance is so important to the longevity of your deck so these are great concerns to have. We see ourselves as an advocate for our clients which means we often have to rely on our experience and expertise to guide them in the right direction. In this article we break down whether or not you should stain underneath your deck and how this action may help or hurt your deck.

Is it Okay to Stain Underneath Your Deck?

Decks create more living space and get you and your family outside more, but they can be fairly tricky to maintain. Decks are typically wooden platforms built above ground and can be covered or uncovered. Since decks are most often built with wood it’s very important to protect the wood from moisture. This is why staining your deck regularly is so critical to your deck upkeep. Staining your deck’s horizontal boards and railings will help protect against moisture from soaking in. If water penetrates the surface of the boards it will cause them to swell. So, that must work on the underside too right? Well, not exactly.

It’s absolutely understandable why many clients inquire about staining the underside of their deck for added protection, but this is actually not a good idea. This is a less is more scenario. When you stain the underside of the boards you end up trapping water into them. Let us explain. Stains are designed to create a barrier between the wood and any moisture. This is why water will pool up on a stained deck like the below photo shows. This is exactly what you want to have happen on the top of your deck, but what about the bottom? 

a photo of a deck with water pooling on it's surface

What Happens if You Stain the Underside of Your Deck?

If you stain the underside of your deck you create a barrier to moisture; however, this can actually trap moisture into your boards and cause them to rot at an alarming rate. This is because when you stain the underside of your deck, water can still get in from the nail or screw heads on the surface. Small amounts of water make their way through the nail into the wood and if the bottom of the board is also stained, it traps the water inside the board. This is exactly what we don’t want happen, because that trapped water will lead to all kinds of rot. If this happens you will inevitably need to replace your deck! 

Quick Tips for Deck Maintenance:

a photo looking up at the corner of a deck

We’ve written several articles on proper deck maintenance but here are a few quick tips for maintaining your deck straight from the pros:

  • Rinse your deck off at least once a year with a light pressure wash or your hose.
  • Stay on top of staining your deck including the floorboards, railing, and spindles.
  • Consider using an outdoor rug to give your deck added protection. 

To avoid any long term damage to your deck, we always recommend that you focus on staining walking surfaces, steps, railings, and spindles.  This will give the surface of your deck protection from the elements and also allow your deck to breathe and let water evaporate. If you’re not sure how to best care for your deck then contact a professional painter or deck installer and ask questions before making any mistakes that are costly to correct!  For some of our favorite stains and stain colors check out this article! While you’re at it, check out our Instagram as well for added inspiration!