How to Clear Coat a Deck

With proper care and maintenance, your wood deck can stay attractive and last for many good years. Because of the horizontal surfaces of a deck, water and sun penetrate into these surfaces over time. Sealing the wood to keep out moisture is of paramount importance to prevent wood decay. By adding a clear coat to a deck, you can slow the typical graying of the wood and prevent excessive moisture damage to the wood surfaces.

Apply clear coat to keep a deck attractive.

Clear the deck of all items and furnishings.

Wash the deck using the power washer or by filling the bucket with water and scrubbing it with the scrub brush. If you use a power washer, set the power washer to a 40-degree fan setting and take care not to gouge the deck wood with the water spray. Spray or scrub every surface of the deck to clean it.

Allow the deck to dry for approximately three days after washing it. Test the wood surface to see if it is ready to accept the clear coat finish. Sprinkle one or two drops of water on the wood. If the water absorbs into the wood within two to three seconds, the wood is ready. If the water sits on the surface of the wood without absorbing, do not apply the clear coat because the wood is either too wet or too porous. In this case, you must wait for the wood to dry or cure.

Place drop cloths around the ground beneath the deck to keep these areas free of spills and drips.

Apply the clear coat to railings first, using the deck brush to coat the undersides and side edges first. Smooth the clear coat on these surfaces and then apply it to the horizontal edge of the railings. Apply the clear coat to benches using the same technique. Apply the clear coat to the horizontal surface of the deck last, smoothing the product with the brush bristles to remove any excess.

Allow the clear coat to dry completely -- check the product label for specific drying times. Depending on the type of wood, one coat may be sufficient or you may need to apply a second coat. Especially dense wood requires only one coat of clear coat.

Wait for the deck to dry completely before you replace furniture and other items.

Things You Will Need

  • Power washer (optional)
  • Stiff scrub brush (optional)
  • Bucket (optional)
  • Drop cloths
  • Clear coat finish
  • Nylon or polyester deck brush


  • Allow new deck wood to weather and cure for between three and six months to ensure the wood dries enough to accept the clear coat.
  • Apply the clear coat on a day when temperatures fall between 45 and 95 Fahrenheit. A slightly overcast day without rain in the forecast for at least 12 hours is ideal.
  • Apply clear coat to a deck every two to three years.


  • Do not apply so much clear coat that the wood appears shiny -- this indicates over-application, and the deck may peel if you do this. Apply only enough clear coat to absorb into the wood as you brush it on.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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