The Toronto weather forecast  is a nightmare for scheduling.

I wouldn’t want to be a production manager right now. It has been raining and raining and raining. Some days it was just storming. Other days the sun was teasing the painters just enough to raise their hopes and then it would rain again. Last year we had to decline most deck staining requests because of the small window of opportunity. Painters need the full time hours to make a living. Exterior painting in Toronto is not predictable and decks are by far the most difficult to schedule.

People paint and stain their decks constantly. The success rate of making it last is not very good. Without following all the manufacturers recommendations, the stain will fail fast. Even if you do the prep and staining properly the stain might still fail. Sometimes as early as the following year. When the stain fails, the only fix is a complete striping, down to the original wood. If you use chemical strippers, the wood needs to be washed with bleach or a wood neutralizer. If any of the stripping chemical stays in the wood fibres, coating failure is guaranteed.

The following are some factors that would make deck staining fail:

– The deck was built too close to the ground and moisture finds its way through the deck.
– The stain was applied too early in the morning when morning dew was present.
– The staining was done too late at night with the temperature dropping below the recommended degrees.
– It was too early in the spring, too late in the fall.
– It was applied under direct sunlight and the surface was too hot to the touch.
– The wood was too new and internally moist.
– The surfaces were not prepared to open the pores of the new wood (remove mill glaze.
– Surfaces were too wet from a freshly done pressure wash.
– Previous failing paints were not stripped 100%.
– After stripping, surfaces were not neutralized off the stripping chemicals.
– There was a waxy type of sealer or waterproofing on it previously.
– The wood was not brightened properly and dead wood fibers were not removed.
– Good quality products were not used.

All the above reasons and of course the small window of opportunity we have for deck staining in Toronto, makes this a mission impossible.

Some decks are not even built properly for staining. For example, there is one deck we returned to redo for the past three years. The deck is built too close to the ground and the moisture penetrates the wood. Year after year the stain blisters and flakes off. Most stains are made to resist the external weather elements, not the internal moisture. This is more difficult to deal with now because of the chemical changes in coatings. The high level of VOC in stains were a valid concern for the environment. Unfortunately, water based stain products do not do a good job of penetrating the surface. Because they do not penetrate the wood they are “film forming” coatings. Sourcing the right product for a difficult situation was almost impossible for the customer.

We did finally source a penetrating oil product that used to work in the past. It was an oak coloured semi translucent stain made by a well known company. This type of stain was often used on public parks and docks. We followed all manufacturers recommendations as usual. We stripped the peeling stain first, sanded the surfaces, washed and neutralized the wood and let it dry for a few days. Here is hope that this time the stain will not flake off again.

Update: we saw the deck the following summer and the result was again disapointing. The stain did not hold very well. The internal moisture was too much again. It was easier to remove the failing product this time because the stain did not form a film on the surface.
Any more attempts to stain this deck would be a waste of money and effort. The only solution is to leave the deck unfinished so that the moisture can move through or redo the deck. This time they should build it higher from the ground. The customer was understanding and likely proceeded with one of the suggestions.

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