Did you know:

  • In Minnesota, decks should be recoated every 2 years.
  • Cedar and redwood decks should be coated when brand new.
  • Green treated decks should wait 60 days to be coated.

Deck Prep:

  • Detergent washing and Brighteners cost $.35 per square foot
  • Floor sanding costs about $1.25 per square foot.

Deck Finishes

  • Deck staining costs between $.35 to $.70 per square foot
  • Deck coatings can react badly with previous coatings
  • Minnesota’s climate is one of the worst in the country for decks
  • A properly maintained deck should last for 30+ years
We paint, stain and seal over 500 decks a year. We design maintenance plans for may of our clients to keep their decks protected for years. We would be happy to meet with you to put together a system for your deck.


Consumer Reports is usually a good resource for many products, but for decks their advice is not applicable to Minnesota. They recommend using a solid stain for best longevity. This is completely wrong for Minnesota. In Minnesota, we experience a large amount of freeze thaw cycles. When deck boards get wet and then freeze, the water expands and pushes the coating off. If the coating is a penetrating stain that does not leave a film, there is little to no coating to push off. (less is better for decks) As a semitransparent wears away, it appears more and more rustic. If a solid coating is applied on a horizontal surface, it will peel and look unsightly. It does not look rustic, it looks unmaintained. The cost to make a solid stain look good again is much higher than a semitransparent stain. We stain, paint and seal over 500 decks per year in Minnesota. We are adept at using most any type of deck finishing system, but have developed some preferences. I adamantly recommend using a semi transparent stain on deck floors. It is a little harder to apply, but holds up as well as anything. More importantly it looks good as it wears. Semitransparent stain is also the least expensive to redo in 2 years. Finally it looks good even after many applications, so the long term maintenance is very economical. Semitransparent also comes in many different tints. The railings, spindles, bottom sides and skirts can be done with the same product and color. This is the system I used on my own deck. With property maintenance every other spring, it looks great year after year. The only drawback to semitransparent stain is that you can not apply it over other preservatives or paint. If your deck was painted in the past, we usually sand the decks down to bare wood using floor sanders. We remove 98% of the existing stain or paint. Our clients love the result. Your deck feels like new again. Sanding only costs about $1.25 per square foot. The feel of your sanded deck floor, Priceless! We do not sand the spindles. We usually stain the railings, spindles and pillars to match the siding of the buildings. A solid stain is opaque like paint, but is a little thinner and penetrates the wood. It holds up on horizontals better than paint, but will fail in time. There is no warranty on any horizontal surface in Minnesota. We use stains from Sherwin Williams, PPG, ICI, Glidden, Hirshfields, X-100, Sikens, Floods, CWF, Deckscapes, Cabots, Structures, Sikkens SRD, TWP, and others.

Deck systems

Here are the pros and cons of each system.
Type Pros Cons
Sealers Minimal prep is required Redo every 6-12 months
I.e. Thompson’s, Beads water limited color selection
Cuprinol, Will not peel Does not hide imperfections
Wax or paraffin based Penetrates wood Can not be applied over most products
Easy to apply when new Appearance is never as good as original coat
Semitransparent stain Not slippery Difficult to apply
I.e. Sherwin Williams, More color options Does not hide imperfections
Deckscapes, A14, Will not peel May flake or wear away
Alkyd based Minimal prep is required Can not be applied over most products
Penetrates wood
Inexpensive to redo Redo after 24 months
Exterior “varnish type” Looks great Expensive products
I.e. Sikkens, Messmers Excellent protection Difficult to apply
Alkyd based Lasts 24-36 months Extensive preparation, $$$
Solid stain or Paints Consistent finish 12-36 months
Alkyd base is best Unlimited color options Will peel, wears poorly
Water base is ok Hides imperfections Expensive to redo 2nd time
Can be applied over any stain Does not penetrate wood


In the short term, solid stains make people consistently happy. Long term, If you are planning on owning the home for more than 2 years, Semitransparent stains offer good protection and the lowest costs to reapply. Deck sanding is easy with the right equipment. Why be unhappy with your deck, we can sand your deck new for $1.25 per square foot.

What causes a deck to fail:

Horizontal surfaces are notorious for not lasting long. There are many reason for them to fail, the biggest questions is which reason will cause your deck to fail first.
  1. Water washing onto the deck from roof: If the roof line sheds water onto the deck, any deck coating will fail in 12 months or less. Guaranteed! The run off water contains aggregate from the roof which acts like a sand blast and cuts through the coating system. A 1 inch rain fall on a 1000 square foot roof that sheds onto a deck is literally the equivalent of receiving 83 feet of rain on the effected area. More importantly this is a danger to the homeowner for slip and fall issues. Gutters are the solution for both safety and longevity of the coating system. This is not an area that we can afford to be casual.
  2. Snow and ice sitting on the surface- freeze and thaw cycles allow water to enter the wood and freeze, pushing the paint off.
  3.  Cracked boards- makes water issues worse. Allows large amounts of water to penetrate the boards.
  4. Cupped boards- makes water issue worse. Holds water for extended periods of time, so that the boards allow more water penetration.
  5. Abrasion from furniture and foot traffic- Scrapes the stain off the surface. This is not a coating failure. This is wear and tear.
  6. Sun- this is a leading cause in other climates, but in MN, deck floors rarely last long enough to allow sun to break the stain down.

Warranty Info on Decks

  • SW does not offer any warranty for decks.
  • X100 offers a 3 year warranty, but requires recoating yearly???
  • Floods offers a 5 year warranty, but no one has ever collected on it for above reasons.
  • They were recently purchased and now offer a written 6 month warranty. Materials only.
  • Behr offers a warranty, but cites the above reasons why they won’t ever honor it.
  • Sikkens SRD offers NO warranty but recommends maintenance of 18-24 months or when visual inspection warrants.
  • Contractors who plan on being around for a long time do not offer warranties on decks.
  • Occasionally, a beginning contractor will mistakenly offer a warranty. He will soon change this.
  • Most contractors have written warranties that exclude horizontal surfaces in the fine print.