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Tips for Spraying a Deck With an Airless Sprayer

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Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.

Spray staining your deck can be much easier than painting the stain on with a brush!

Spray staining your deck can be much easier than painting the stain on with a brush!

Using an Airless Sprayer to Stain Your Deck

One of the easiest and fastest ways to stain a deck is using an airless sprayer instead of brushing the stain on only by hand. Using a sprayer will save you at least a couple days of labor on your deck staining project, believe me. I wouldn't stain a deck without my sprayer.

A sprayer is used simply as a means to apply the deck stain, but spraying is not a substitute for brushing the stain after it's applied to the surface. You still have to back-brush the stain into the pores of the wooden spindles and deck boards. The most important part of spraying stain onto a deck, other than cleaning the wood first, is making sure you've carefully masked off the siding and nearby surfaces not being stained.

Don't let the worry of airborne over-spray prevent you from using a sprayer outside. Over-spray is easily controlled, starting with the number one rule: never use an airless sprayer outside when it's windy. By spraying at the lowest pressure possible, using the right tip size and masking materials, you won't have to worry about over-spray ruining your neighbor's car. My article "How to Control Overspray When Spray Painting Outdoors" provides helpful tips on this topic.

Deck Staining Prep

  1. Unless the deck is brand new, the wood needs careful power washing to get rid of dirt and mildew. If the wood is severely weathered with moss and mildew stains, apply deck cleaner or deck brightener to restore the natural color of the wood. After a good washing, wait a few days to let the wood dry out before applying the stain.
  2. Peeling paint and stain must be removed through a combination of power washing and sanding in advance. Power washing removes most of the loose material, but not all of it. I own both the Makita orbital sander and the Wagner Paint Eater. For fast and effective paint and stain removal from a deck, the Wagner Paint Eater is, by far, the best option. Always sand a deck after power washing to smooth out the surface and remove splinters.

Masking A Deck for Airless Spraying

The actual deck itself usually doesn't need much masking, but the area surrounding the deck is what to focus on, especially the house siding. When I spray a deck, I cover the siding with one long sheet of plastic.

Use the 3M hand masker to mask off the siding above your deck quickly and easily. I've used this awesome tool to do paint prep masking for over 20 years. Along with the masker, buy a roll of 99-inch masking film (3M brand) and your choice of painter's tape.

The 99-inch film (3M brand) is perfect for covering siding above a deck. This allows you to spray the yard side of the spindles without worrying about the spray gun spitting globs of stain all over the back of your house, which will happen if you don't protect it with plastic. Move nearby lawn feature to the other side of the yard and cover flowers with drop cloths.

Imagine how great it's going to feel when your deck looks like new again.

Imagine how great it's going to feel when your deck looks like new again.

The Best Deck Stain Sprayer

The best deck stain sprayer to buy is one that makes sense for your situation. You can buy an HVLP sprayer, which are great for smaller projects, but a poor choice when you're faced with staining a huge deck. The cup of an HVLP is small and empties fast when you're spraying dozens of spindles.

You can buy a cheap sprayer from a home improvement store to get the job done, but if you only plan to stain your deck once, consider renting a contractor airless sprayer from a paint store instead.

I'm a long time user of Graco airless sprayers. I own a Graco 495 Ultra Max and a Titan 440 Impact and use them for decks, cabinets, walls, and fences. The Ultra Max is a bigger and more expensive sprayer, but there are smaller Graco sprayers that cost less and can be used for more than just spraying deck stain. The Impact is reasonably priced too and very versatile.

Staining A Deck with a Pump Sprayer

Using a pump sprayer to stain your deck is one of the cheapest sprayer options, but the annoying task of having to continually pump them is tiring and time consuming. Not only that, but pump sprayers are very limited in functionality.

Using an airless sprayer is so much faster and more versatile. You can spray deck spindles in minutes without having to pump anything manually. The staining process is more efficient and worth the extra cost for the time saved at the end of the project.

Spraying Stain on Deck Spindles and Floor Boards

When spraying a deck with an airless sprayer, never spray at a high pressure, or you'll waste a lot of stain and produce tons of drifting over-spray. You want to spray at the lowest pressure possible, only enough to get the stain onto the surface for brushing.

Best Spray Tip Size for A Deck

I recommend using an airless sprayer brand that offers fine finishing tips, not for the fine finishing, but the ability to spray efficiently at a lower pressure. With my Graco sprayer, I use the green FFLP (fine finish, low pressure) spray tips a lot, and I've used them for decks and interior spindles too. These spray tips last longer than the less expensive tips Graco sells.

The best spray tip size for deck spindles is a 110. This tip produces a two-inch spray fan that reduces the amount of wasted stain blowing between the spindles instead of onto the surface. I spray Super Deck stain (Sherwin Williams) with this tip and it works great.

To save stain when spraying spindles, turn the gun sideways and shoot just enough material onto the surface to spread out with a brush, or a roller. Spray the deck spindles first and the floor last, two coat each, back-brushing the stain after you spray it onto the surface.

Use A Spray Gun Extension

A spray gun extension or wand is another awesome tool that makes spraying with an airless sprayer less taxing on your body. You can spray a deck floor without having to bend over the whole time.

For the floor, you'll want to increase the size of the spray tip for faster coverage. The key is not going too wide though with the spray fan, otherwise you won't be able to brush between the boards fast enough before the stain starts to dry, especially working in the sun. I like to stain only two to three deck boards at a time.

A good tip size for a deck floor is a 410 (8-inch spray fan). If you have a helper to brush in the stain as you spray, you could even go wider, but I probably wouldn't choose anything wider than 410, or 510. To prevent lap marks, spray and brush the floor from one side of the deck towards the other side, in one direction.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Matt G.