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Can You Stain or Paint a Composite Deck?

So, you’ve got a composite deck. You love your composite deck. With its low-maintenance upkeep, long-lasting durability and natural wood-like appearance, there’s nothing you’d change about it. Right?

Except maybe you’ve had your house painted recently and you want your composite deck to match the new look. Or, you’ve had your composite deck for a while and you’re ready for a change. What about staining or painting – can you paint composite decking? Can you stain composite decking?

The short answer: yes.

While composite decks like Trex aren’t designed or required to be paintable or stainable, like their natural wood counterparts, first generation composite decking can and will accept paint under certain circumstances – if properly cleaned, prepped and primed. Although, it's important to note that newer styles of capped composite decking cannot. Adding deck stain to older composite decking or a topcoat of paint can help restore the color and beauty while extending your deck’s already long lifespan.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pressure washer (cleaning)
  • Soft bristle brush (cleaning)
  • Vinegar and baking soda (mold/mildew cleaning)
  • Sandpaper (240-grit)
  • Paint roller/brush/pad/sprayer
  • Primer
  • Outdoor paint

Now that you know what’s possible and know what tools you’ll need to refinish composite decking, it’s time to learn how to paint or stain your composite deck.

How to Paint Composite Decking

If your first generation composite deck is showing some signs of fading, then it may be time to take matters into your own hands… Literally. Grab a brush, some paint, and the other necessary tools and get started bringing your deck back to its original beauty.

  • Step 1: Remove or cover plants
    If you’ve got a jungle on your deck, you’ll need to cover any and all foliage with canvas or plastic drop cloths or remove them from the deck altogether.
  • Step 2: Clean your deck
    With a few household chemicals, you can easily clean your deck as you prep to paint. For basic debris and dirt cleaning, use a soapy water mixture and a low pressure power washer or soft bristle brush. For removing mildew and mold, you’ll want to mix in two parts vinegar and one part water into a bucket and sprinkle some baking soda on the infected areas. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.
  • Step 3: Sand your deck
    To apply the smoothest coat of paint possible, you’ll want to sand your deck going in the direction of the grain in order to degloss and smooth out the planks. Sandpaper that’s 240-grit is recommended. Make sure to wipe the shavings with a broom and wash with water once more.
  • Step 4: Prime it
    Choose an acrylic latex exterior primer (such as, Rustoleum Restore Deck Start Wood Primer or Valspar Exterior Multi-Purpose Water-Based Primer) and pour the bucket into your roller tray. Begin to apply the primer along the length of the planks.
    Note: Consider a roller with an extension handle to save you some back pain. Wait about two hours for the primer to dry, or whatever timetable the product label calls for.
  • Step 5: Paint it
    Once the primer is fully dry, you can pour your outdoor porch paint into the roller tray and get to work. Again, make sure to let the first application fully dry before adding a possible second coat. Dry times will vary, so look to the product label for recommended coat application times.

How to Stain Composite Decking

Staining your first generation composite deck follows a lot of the same rules and steps of painting your deck. If your deck is beginning to fade and you want to enrich its natural-looking color, simply follow these staining steps for a deck that will look good as new.

  • Step 1: Protect plants and other deck items
    Start the staining process by covering or removing any plants or furniture.
  • Step 2: Clean the surface
    Just like painting, it’s important that you clean the deck of any dirt, debris, mold, mildew or grime. See Step 2 of the painting walkthrough to make your own cleaning concoction or purchase a cleaner like BEHR Premium All-in-One-Wood Cleaner or something similar that works with composite decking. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label for best results. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.
  • Step 3: Apply the weatherproofing stain & sealer
    Choose an appropriate stain and sealer (one that can fight against UV fading and discoloration), such as the BEHR Premium Solid Color Weatherproofing All-in-One Wood stain & sealer, to begin the application process. Use either a quality pad applicator, brush, roller or sprayer to apply the stain and sealer evenly over the whole composite surface. Again, follow the instructions on the product label for best results.
    Note: A composite deck stain with mildewcides, zinc particles or inhibitors are a preventive plus.
  • Step 4: Keep it clean
    To get the most longevity from your freshly stained deck, rewash your composite deck seasonally or every couple of seasons and reapply a maintenance coat of stain when necessary.

How to Remove Stains and Paint from Composite Decking

Sometimes a full deck stain or paint job isn’t necessary. After all, your composite deck was specifically made to prevent you from having to do such intense maintenance. But for smaller spot jobs, such as grease or rust stains, you may need to do some touching up.

So how do you remove stains from composite decking?

The best method for composite deck stain removal is to use the same method you would to remove mildew and mold from your deck. Use warm water and mild soap to start. For tougher situations, applying a vinegar-water mix and sprinkling baking soda over the affected area should lift those stains.

If you were painting your house and you accidently got some paint splatter on your deck, no worries! To remove paint from your first generation composite deck, your best option is a product called Krud Kutter. This versatile product will help you remove any paint drip or splatter without damaging the surface.