Staining a Very Old Deck

Because it’s already mid-June, we are nearly at the longest day of the year. The summer solstice is a sad day in my book because it marks the end of the positive increase in daylight and the beginning of the downward slide into the extensive winter darkness. Thankfully, it’s not quite as dramatic and rapid as that description suggests, but it is the half of the year that the hours of light move in the undesirable direction. I’m hoping that because this winter didn’t feel as brutally depressing as all the others in recent history (being the past decade or so), my all-consuming dread, which typically starts around now, will be more moderate, and confined solely to the month preceding the season this year. It’s something that needs psychological work for sure.
We got all of our chores done yesterday and some outdoor work. Ben has become a landscaper in his own right, taking care of decades of overgrowth around our yard. I’ve become an eager DIYer for basic home projects.

It’s taken me a few weeks, but I’ve finally finished sanding the deck. It’s so large and in poor shape that this stage felt epic, though important. In truth, once I was on my hands and knees with my face right up to the boards, I became much more aware of the terrible shape they are in. They are splintered, dry, warped, and broken in many areas, although the underlying support beams are in good shape. The overlying lumber planks really needs to be scrapped and fully replaced, but that’s a much more expensive project than we can electively swing right now. The stain was a good deal and will enable us to eke out a couple more years with this wood. Structurally, the deck is sound and can safely support anything we do on it. However, even after sanding it well, it’s not a place I’d recommend padding around barefoot. It also doesn’t look and feel nice underfoot, nor would it be the best surface for doing any work that requires a reliably flat surface. Still, it is a nice open area to sit outside and marvel at our ever-improving yard, so it makes sense to preserve it and apply this life-saving patch at this point. Staining and resealing the wood now will hopefully halt the erosive weathering progression, which has continued to eat away at the wood and delaminate the layers. Fortunately, mildew doesn’t seem to be a major problem, which is nice because many decks that are exposed to lots of moisture get coated in mildew over time. Ours seems more prey to the consequences of relentless sun and a drying environment.

The next step is to vacuum the deck, affix a few areas that became loose in my sanding, and then stain it. I’m nervous for that stage because I think it will be messy and difficult to cover evenly, without getting pooled stain, and reaching all of the surface area without stepping back on freshly stained planks. It should need two coats, so I’ll try to apply the first one this morning and the second on later this afternoon or tomorrow morning. The weather should cooperate and give us a window of a few consecutive dry days, which is a requirement when painting or staining an outdoor structure unless you have securable tarps that fully protect the area. Our deck is way too large to be shielded in any way. It extends nearly the length of the house along the backside. We need rain-free days, so hopefully the dry forecast is accurate.

The itchiness from yesterday has decided to remain a clingy friend today. Hopefully, as I start working in a bit, the distraction will help crowd out the urge to scratch. Yesterday, the periods where the itchiness was the most maddening and demanding was when I had little else to focus on. My work is cognitively demanding, so it’s often an effective means of diverting my attention from something upsetting or untoward to a productive outlet. I’m sure the deck work will also put my hands to a use other than inflicting scratch marks reminiscent of a cat attack along my body.

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