Ah, good old summertime has arrived when the grills come out, and we gather to the backyard deck. How’s the old deck looking? Does it need some tender loving care?

When the deck is first built, we gather everyone we ever knew over to see it and enjoy it, but the thing about wood is it needs attention to last a long time. Staining a deck is not rocket science, but it does require some know-how. Here are seven tips to help you do a first-rate job.

• Most people are smart enough to realize they must scrub the deck really good before staining it. What some don’t realize is the rinsing process is just as important. The chemicals used to remove dirt are absorbed into the wood. Over time, these absorbed chemicals can lift back up out of the wood and cause the stain to break down. So at the end of the scrub get the water hose out and rinse the deck, and when you think you’re done, rinse again.

• The easiest way to apply the stain is to spray it on with a pump-up garden sprayer, but that may not be the best way. The rubbing that occurs when using a brush actually helps the wood absorb more stain. The more stain absorbed, the fewer times you have to repeat this project over the course of the life of your deck.

• OK, so you just built a brand new deck. Think it doesn’t need scrubbing before applying the stain? Don‘t let that disguise fool you. Brand-new lumber needs mill scale removed from it. Mill scale is a crushing of the grain that takes place during the milling process. It must be thoroughly cleaned off for the stain to permeate properly.

• Slow down and read the directions. Every type of stain does not have the exact same directions, so if you have done this before make sure you know the rules about the stain you are currently using. How many coats and how long to wait between coats is important. How long to wait for new lumber to weather will be on the instructions as well. Weathering wood takes months, not days, so don’t get in too much of a rush.

• Don’t let all the hard work you did washing the deck be diminished by killing the plants around it. Check for deck cleaners that are eco-friendly and won’t harm humans as well. If the deck has been stained before and there are spots where the old stain isn’t coming up you may have to use a little stain stripper. Caution it is harmful to plants. The problem is the new stain won’t disguise the blemish of leftover stain, so doing a good prep job is important.

• One process that often is skipped is using a wood brightener. The only reason for skipping this process is spending a little extra money. The job itself is an easy one. No scrubbing involved, just spray on and rinse off. The benefits of wood brighteners is they help neutralize any wood stripper that was used and improve the penetration process of the new stain into the wood.

• Don’t try to save money going with cheap stains. Generic products are sometimes OK for certain things, but not in this case. If you want premium quality looks get premium quality products.

Marla Ballard’s column appears each Wednesday in the Times-Journal.

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