Wet weather and a stripped deck
September 8, 2019 8:56 AM   Subscribe

We power washed our deck as a setup step to stain or paint it. Unfortunately the annual weather change has arrived and the deck is now largely stripped of stain. It’s unlikely that we will see a run of clear and warm weather until July. The deck cannot sit out a wet PNW winter in an unsealed state. I mean it could, but the wood will swell up like a sponge. What should we do?
posted by mwhybark to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are now water-based deck stains and paints that have extended temperature ranges for installation. I'd go with a solid-color paint, rather than a stain: in the past the paints have been more durable. I get the impression that the bone-dry conditions required for the application of a drying oil or high-VOC solvent-based finish are not as stringent, but you'll have to investigate that yourself.

Olympic Elite solid-color and Behr Premium are what I am looking at, but I am not impressed by the Behr.

I would consider tarping your deck to keep casual moisture off (don't just lay the tarp flat on the deck: provide a slope and aeration under it with chairs, etc), and keep an eye on the weather. Upcoming Wednesday through Thursday, and Sunday through Monday are predicted fair in Seattle (according to this perishable link to FNMOC WXMAP)
posted by the Real Dan at 9:55 AM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would just wait until July. Yes, it will absorb some water, but it can only absorb so much and then it's just steady state. The fibers will swell a bit, but they will un-swell when the dry season arrives. Worst case, you rent a floor sander to make it smooth, and then do your staining.
posted by beagle at 10:05 AM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

It’s very likely there will be a dry couple days or week well before July. Well probably see enough of a break to let stain/seal cure within the next month. Keep an eye on the forecast and be ready to get started. Maybe put up a tarp up over parts of it and do it it sections if you have a bigger deck.
posted by HMSSM at 10:11 AM on September 8, 2019

I am now maybe for the first time ever in the PNW hoping for a dry stretch. I spent today “tarping” it, actually doing a 3mil painters plastic wrap, and setting up some fans. Ambient humidity is 75%, so it’s pretty unlikely the raw and most carefully kept dry wood will have any reason to evaporate. I bought a moisture tester. I estimate our tolerance for a plastic tent to be about ten days - the deck steps lead to the primary house entrance.

Boy am I irritated! Quote unquote, “if you want something done right, do it yourself”. I foolishly arrogated this to another person due to time pressure. Every issue is clearly attributable to inexperience on their part, something I actually anticipated but did not, you know, DO ANYTHING ABOUT. I have only myself to blame. What an asshole.
posted by mwhybark at 3:21 PM on September 8, 2019

I pressure washed and stained my Seattle deck in January. IIRC I used the same Olympic stain suggested by the Real Dan.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:38 PM on September 8, 2019

I agree with HMSSM, we'll likely see another good stretch of weather before November.
posted by perhapses at 6:53 PM on September 8, 2019

I live on the Oregon coast and yes, it’s absolutely pouring. Use the moisture meter to check a few spots. I’d probably take the tarps off and let it get rained on for now. Before now and mid-Oct, we will definitely have a few consecutive nice days and the deck will dry out unless it’s ipe or tiger wood. I’d try to get a coat of Cutek on it, ideally two, but one will be a lot better than nothing. I wouldn’t want to leave it untreated until next year; I’d you do, usually there’s a nice week in April, and I’d do it then. PM me if you want before/after photos of my deck, the percentage moisture you’re looking for, etc. I’ve used Penofin, Behr, etc and Cutek seems to be the best. Easy to apply and doesn’t flake off, does waterproof the wood.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 7:09 PM on September 8, 2019

Tenting is working well, two days of rain now and most of the deck is holding steady at 11-12%. Some issues keeping the very bottom step dry, will address on Tuesday. Overnight there were a couple rainflow errors in the tenting that created wet spots; once addressed they dried back to 12% in a couple hours despite the relatively high ambient humidity.
posted by mwhybark at 5:17 PM on September 9, 2019

The moisture meter I picked up is a combination of cool and interesting and sketchy as hell. It’s the size of a contemporary automobile proximity keyfob, does not have ANY display or controls, just an on-off switch which is used also for... pairing! It’s a bluetooth moisture meter. You download an app to the phone, pair the device (each time) from within the app, and the readout is on your phone. Kind of interesting and cool, kind of bogus. It cost, iirc, $11? I figured, why the hell wouldn’t I try something as weird as that? Glad I gave it a shot, I am sure I’ll hate it when Ryobi never updates the app to chase Apple’s more and more accelerated iOS obsolescing strategy.
posted by mwhybark at 5:22 PM on September 9, 2019

...annnd heavy rains this morning overwhelmed the tenting. dammit.
posted by mwhybark at 7:18 AM on September 10, 2019

Further notes:

I fixed the tenting after it failed. We had more heavy rain; the tenting failed again. We had yet *more* heavy rain, and this time I checked the tenting throughout the rain and night and the tenting held.

The failed tenting incidences produced measured moisture levels of between 18% and 20%, too wet to paint, at about four hours after the rains. Fans running within the tenting helped the moisture levels reach 8-6% within 18 hours of the failed tenting.

Then we had to leave town for five days. I thought about leaving the tenting up but it failed under two circumstances: pressure-differential winds at sunset or at onset of a new weather system, such as one of the storms that blew through, and from water pooling in areas of the tenting that I had not sufficiently tensioned against pooling. The only time that the tenting did NOT fail in a heavy rainstorm was when I was manually adjusting it every hour or so. The plastic sheets I made the tenting out of are easily large enough to wrap a car in and we live close several arterials. I concluded that I had a moral obligation to take the tenting down while we were away because there was too great a possibility it would blow away if wind came and were not tending it.

While we were gone, of course, more rainstorms came through. When we arrived home the deck was awash and moisture meter measurements showed it at 60-70% with a visible film of water. Forecast for today was clear so I decided to let it ride and see how long it took to evaporate.

This morning at about 11 it was at 18-13%. About four hours later, most of the deck reads at 8-6% with a couple of areas reading at 11%. The deck still feels damp and cool to bare feet even in areas that read 6%.

The upshot of this is that I am more comfortable looking for that three-day window, hopefully as soon as possible.
posted by mwhybark at 4:03 PM on September 18, 2019

Final update:

We gave it another powerwash about a week ago to hit some areas that were missed on the first run. By the time it was dry we had another run of rain - September 2019 had the most rainy days of any September since I moved here in 1990 - and I went ahead and staged up to paint at the first three-day window. Sunday and Monday (September 30 and October 1) were clear and dry all day. I got the rails done Sunday and the deck and stairs on Monday. To my surprise, the estimated coverage I calculated (under 500 sqft) and the claimed coverage of the opaque stain we used (up to 500 sqft per gallon) appeared to mismatch, and I used both gallons completely.

I went ahead and bought one more gallon to have on hand as the stain is quite light in color and surely we will turn the pale aqua stairs muddy brown every winter.

Rain is due overnight, we’ll see how it does.
posted by mwhybark at 9:05 AM on October 2, 2019

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