Painting a deck

Painting the Cottage Deck

Stepping onto a wooden deck overlooking a tranquil lake can be one of the most calming experiences. The water’s gentle ripples, the chirping birds, and the scent of fresh air all combine to provide a serene getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But as picturesque as it might seem, the wear and tear from nature’s elements can take a toll on such decks, making a fresh coat of paint or stain not only aesthetic but often essential.

We painted our extra large cottage deck – a DIY story.

This summer we’ve been working on creating a beach, creating a garden in the woods and sprucing up the deck.

Our cottage porch or “deck” is a good 60 feet long and 12 feet deep – with an accessible wheelchair ramp down the side. That’s a lot of wood. In the summer the deck is in full sun – and is so hot it cannot be walked on in bare feet (which includes the dog!).

Cottage before
Cottage with green deck before painting – and trying to make a beach!

The deck also is exposed to the elements year round – wind and rain, ice and snow. The wood is sturdy and well constructed enough – but the lovely (not really) green paint was peeling. It’s impossible to sit and relax on a deck when surrounded by peeling green paint!

Peeling green paint on deck
Peeling green paint on deck

Did I say green paint? Yes, someone got a sale on green paint and painted everything green – both the inside of the cabin and the deck.

Why Post About Painting a Deck?

I know – it’s just not that exciting. It’s not one of those beautiful instagrammable influencer type of before and afters. BUT – I’m telling you about painting the deck because:

  1. Painting a deck is something that can be done with minimal skills and tools
  2. Sometimes people just need a push to get started – because it’s a big job and someone’s gotta do it! You will feel so much better when it’s done.
  3. Painting exterior surfaces in lighter colours fights climate change.

Climate Change, Paint and the Albedo Effect

“Climate change? You are kidding right?” – you may say…… That’s not really why we painted the deck – but the Albedo effect is an interesting fact to consider!

Albedo is a measure of how much sunlight is reflected by a surface. Surfaces with high albedos, like snow and light-colored materials, reflect a significant portion of sunlight, while surfaces with low albedos, like dark forests and asphalt, absorb more sunlight.

The idea behind painting wood or other surfaces a lighter color to combat climate change is to increase the albedo of human-made structures and environments. By doing so, these surfaces would reflect more sunlight back into space rather than absorbing it. This can reduce the amount of heat retained by these surfaces, ultimately helping to mitigate urban heat islands and potentially slow down global warming.

Now, I’m just painting my deck because it’s ugly, peeling and it’s too hot to walk on – but while I’m painting I can feel very superior about saving the world can’t I?

What not to say to someone about to embark on a large painting project:

As I started my painting project, a few of these comments from my family and friends reverberated in my ears. Things like:

  • Somebody is going to have to sand that whole thing! (That would be me)
  • Somebody is going to have to replace a few boards! (We can replace the boards next year – wood-filler for now – and let’s just get started)
  • You should check with so and so for colour recommendations. (Argggg no)
  • Sorry, I’m so busy this weekend. (Thanks!)

When is the Best Time to Paint a Deck?

Check the weather. It’s best to paint when there’s no rain in the forecast for at least 24-48 hours. You can apply paint when the weather is between 50 and 90 degrees F – but about 70 degrees is perfect for me! The truth is there will NEVER be a perfect time to get started with a big painting project. Just hope for the best!

Tip: One of the major causes of peeling deck paint is moisture in the wood under the paint. Paint only when the wood is as dry as can be. For our project, we had to wait every day until the morning dew and condensation dried and to shade the deck from full sun!

What colour to paint deck?

We spent all summer wondering what colour to paint the deck. We had a rust coloured roof and white vinyl siding with green trees and blue water all us. I Googled “what are trendy colours to paint decks?” Apparently Black and Dark Brown are trendy! (Behr’s Cordovan Brown is the staind colour of the year!). What is the world thinking? This is one area where Googling doesn’t seem to be a good idea? Hasn’t Google heard about the Albedo effect? Do the world’s paint companies and decorators want us to burn our feet on hot decks? We wanted a light colour – so we chose a yellow.

Goldendoodle lying on lighter coloured paint
Max understands the Abledo effect

We noticed an immediate difference in temperature from applying a lighter colour of paint over the dark green. Max noticed as well! Seriously though, the lighter paint (once dried) was so much cooler to the touch than the old green!

Sanding the Deck

I’m not a fan of sanding pressure treated wood, and I didn’t want to do that at all (pressure treated wood has nasty chemicals in it) – but the old paint was really peely and needed cleaning up. We first washed it down with a hose, then swept with a stiff broom.

Shop vac duct taped to orbital sander
Shop vac duct taped to orbital sander

To absorb some of the toxic dust from sanding – I used my favourite trick of duct-taping my orbital sander’s dust vent – to the hose of our shop-vac. The shop-vac and the sander get turned on at the same time – and presto -most of the dust ends up in the vacuum! MacGyver would be proud! We also wore face masks – we have lots of those leftover!


Do I Need to Hire a Painter?

No! It’s not rocket science. It’s just painting. I enjoy seeing paint cover ugly things. The only time I hire a painter is when I have to paint up high (I’m not allowed on ladders), or if I’m physically unable to paint.

Painting a deck
Painting a deck

Dry Time: Allow the paint to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on the product, this might take anywhere from a few hours to a day.

Second Coat: If the paint appears uneven or if you can still see the wood grain, a second coat may be necessary.

What kind of Paint to use on Deck?

If we had been dealing with unpainted wood, we would have chosen a natural wood toned transparent stain. If we had been dealing with a previously stained deck, we would have selected a wood-toned opaque stain. BUT, our deck had been previously painted with an acrylic based exterior paint. So we decided to go with an acrylic paint

Deck paints are either acrylic (water-based) or oil-based. Acrylic paints stay on the surface and act as a protective shield or coating. Oil-based paints sink into wood and protect from within, but they are also good for metals. Acrylics tend to be more flexible, easier to clean and simple to remove.

Behr yellow Porch and Floor paint with Primer
Behr yellow Porch and Patio paint with Primer

Tip: We chose a paint from Home Depot specifically for Porch and Patios – WITH – a primer! Some paint stores will tell you to buy a separate primer, some will tell you paints with primers included are not better – BUT – for about $5 more a gallon – I found that this paint and primer went on and covered well. If you are going to be spending several days of your life crawling around painting a deck – you may as well be happy with the paint!

My Only Complaint:

My only complaint with this project is – well – who invented those metal deck rails? I think I had to paint around about a million of them? Perhaps I am exaggerating – but that was no fun.

One million deck posts
One million deck posts – no fun to paint around!

The Final Result

It took about 5 days of intermittent painting and 5 gallons of paint (three coats) to complete this project.

We had an immediate benefit of being able to walk on the deck – as the paint cooled it down considerably. Maybe I haven’t saved the world from climate change – but the Albedo effect is a real thing!

I am happy with the results! I think the colour on the trim may change in the future to give a bit more contrast to the white cottage – but for now the project is done and it’s time to close up the cottage for the winter.

Next year we will be putting some skirting below the deck, doing some more work on creating a beach and prettying up the boathouse! Stay tuned!

Cottage after deck painting
Cottage after deck painting – still trying to make a beach!

In the end, painting the cottage deck is about more than just maintenance. It’s a labour of love, blending functionality with aesthetics.

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13 thoughts on “Painting the Cottage Deck

  1. I did a major sanding job on our huge cedar deck. It took all summer and I rented some professional sanding machines for the deck surface. I wanted to remove the paint so I could apply a semi-solid stain. I’m pleased with the results but at about six years I’ve had to re-stain the deck surface. Stain shouldn’t peal off; it should slowly fade away. It’s just in the area that get’s the most sun that needed work. I also found a few boards that needed replacement. That’s not bad for a 27 year old deck. It remains a labour of love.

    1. 27 years is awesome! You are right stain shouldn’t peel – but it does. I prefer a stain look but the light paint helped cool off the deck surface.

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