Your ultimate guide to caring for your decking wood

If you’re lucky enough to have a decking or have just put a brand new decking in your garden, you’ll want to preserve it for as long as possible. Whether it’s been there for a while and needs reviving or you’ve invested a significant amount of money into landscaping your garden, protecting your decking is crucial to maintaining its natural characteristics.

The major adversities you must protect your decking against are weathering from rain and sunlight, mould, dirt, discolouration and insects. Luckily, with regular cleaning and treatment, you can keep your decking looking as good as new, even if it is damaged already from some or all of these afflictions. Why not read our guide below and learn how to care for your decking to help it last for years? We also answer some FAQs to help you keep your decking looking as good as new.

Table of contents

How to care for decking wood

As a natural material subject to the elements, decking wood will grey and weather due to rain and sunlight and with continual exposure to wet weather, wood decking will begin to rot. So, to keep your decking in tip-top condition, you must clean and treat the wood regularly. Here is our ultimate guide on how to care for your decking wood.

How to clean your decking

The first step to caring for your decking is to clean it. Use a broom or brush to dislodge any loose dirt. Then, use a jet wash to clean any stubborn stains. You can also use one of our decking cleaners to quickly and easily remove dirt, grime and organic mould growth. 

These cleaners will provide a clean surface ready for painting or treating. Regular cleaning will help maintain a long-lasting finish on your decking.

If you have any previous paints, stains or oils on your decking, you must strip them before adding treatment or paint, especially if it’s peeling. Luckily, our decking stripper does what it says on the tin. With one coat, you will get fresh-looking decking within 30 minutes.

Ronseal Decking stripper

If sanding your decking to remove old stains, dirt or paint, use a 120-150 grit sandpaper and clean any dust before oiling or painting.

How to use protectors and restorers on decking

Once you have cleaned your decking, it’s time to restore and protect the wood. Use a restorer if your decking is older and has a greyish tint from weathering. Restorers will brighten and revive dull timbers, returning them to their original beauty.

Ronseal decking restorer

A protector is for old and new wood to protect it from weathering. They have waterproofing properties to stop the timber from splitting, swelling and greying. The protectors are penetrative sealers that will seal in the wood, protecting it from algae and fungal growth while allowing the wood to breathe. As a result, using a protector on your decking will increase its lifespan.

Protectors are usually clear, so they will not alter the natural colour and texture of the decking wood if you want to keep its natural look and feel.

Caring for your decking with oil 

Another way you can restore and protect your decking wood is by using decking oil. Wood oils protect and maintain your beautiful wood surface by preserving the natural wood finish and enhancing the natural wood with naturally tinted oils, mimicking a natural finish.

Oil is a great way to revive old weathered decking as it replaces all the natural oil the timber has lost due to harsh weather. It also acts as a weatherproofing formula while allowing the wood to breathe, delaying the greying process and alleviating it with regular application.

Using wood oil as a weatherproofer will also protect against splitting, swelling, shrinkage and discolouration from the sun with its UV filter. 

We also have a range of anti-slip decking oils, which provide a soft satin finish and are extremely water and dirt resistant. With anti-slip oil, your deck will be safe to walk on, even in the rain.

Osmo anti-slip decking oil

View our wood oil finish collection to find the perfect outdoor wood oil for your decking!

Paint your decking

Another way to protect your decking and add a touch of colour is by using decking paint. You can’t use regular wood paint because it won’t be strong enough to withstand the weather, and people walking over it, so ensure you read the specifications before purchasing.

Decking paint offers long-lasting colour and protection, smooth cracks and rough surfaces and locks down splinters. 

A lick of paint can instantly revive a tired-looking decking. Don’t replace it; rescue it!

Ronseal decking paint

View our outdoor wood paint collection for our complete range of outdoor wood paint.

How to paint decking

Wait for a warm, dry day so your decking paint can dry properly. Then, clear the decking of any furniture. 

  • Firstly, you must clean the decking. Follow the steps above on how to clean your decking. If you have dirty decking, the paint won’t stick.
  • Stir the paint with an old wooden spoon, and if you haven’t already tested it, do so on a discreet plank to see how the colour will look.
  • Saturate your outdoor painting brush with paint and brush the planks with grain. Paint 3-4 planks at a time to avoid overlapping.
  • Fill in any cracks with paint for a smooth finish. 
  • Repeat this with a second coat once the first coat is completely dry. 

How long does decking paint take to dry

Please check the specifications for the specific paint you have. But generally, you will need to leave the paint for four hours between coats and 48 hours before you return your decking furniture. 

Using decking stain

Alternatively, you can opt for a wood stain to give your decking a splash of colour but retain its natural wood characteristics. Like paint, it protects against harsh weather and wear and tear from footfall. And with our anti-slip stain featuring micro-beads and algicide, your decking will be safe to walk on even in the rain.

How to paint composite decking

Composite decking is an alternative decking material to traditional timber. It is a combination of various substances and combines natural and synthetic materials to make a longer-lasting decking, like wood fibres, virgin or recycled plastic and chemical additives. In most cases, we wouldn’t recommend painting your composite decking because it is already coloured. Also, modern composite decking comes treated or “capped” in a PVC shell to prevent rotting. If you paint over this, your paint will peel very quickly. Also, painting your composite decking could void your warranty, so always check with your manufacturer before you paint.

However, if your composite decking is old or uncapped, its colour can fade over time due to exposure to UV rays. If so, you should only use high-quality latex paint, as all other paints will peel and paint it in the following way:

  1. Clean your decking with soap and water, a jet wash or any of our decking cleaners mentioned above to remove dirt and debris.
  2. Sand the decking with 220-240 grit sandpaper to remove the top layer of faded colour and smooth out the surface. Brush the sanding dust, rinse with water and let it dry.
  3. Prime your decking to help the paint stick with acrylic latex-based primer. 
  4. Paint your decking with latex-based paint by going along the length of the boards.

How to protect decking paint

You can protect your decking paint job using various methods, from preventative measures to waterproofing solutions. 

How to stop decking paint from peeling

Preventing your decking paint from peeling is all in the preparation. You must have a dry, clean surface before you can paint, or it will fail to adhere to the wood. Here are the factors to consider to prevent your decking paint from peeling.

Moisture control

Before you start painting, make sure that the decking is completely dry. If you have used a jet wash to clean the decking, you must leave it to completely dry before painting it. Drying your decking after jetwashing could take several weeks because although it might feel dry, there may be moisture inside the timber that could dissipate over time. Any water left in the wood will cause the paint to peel. Likewise, don’t paint your decking when there is a chance of rain.

You also can’t cut corners. Moisture can seep within if any timber planks are left exposed to the elements. Therefore, when painting your decking, paint the entire plank and both ends. 

Any moisture-exposed decking is at risk of water damage. So, protect your decking by addressing the easy wins, like preventing contact from soil and foliage or any leaking drains or gutters.

Exposure to humidity, rain and moisture can also cause timber to rot and grow mould and mildew, damaging your paint job.

Work on clean surfaces

It is crucial to clean your decking before painting, as any dust or dirt will prevent the paint from adhering to the wood. 

Sand old paint and weathered wood

Similarly, if there is current chipped paint or the decking wood is old and cracked, the paint won’t stick. Sand down your decking so you can paint on smooth, clean wood. Make sure you brush and wipe away any sanding dust left over. 


You also can’t paint your decking when it’s scorching hot weather as the paint will dry too quickly and will peel soon after. 

Furthermore, if the sunlight is too intense, it can cause paint to blister and peel.

Use the correct paint

Make sure you use specific decking paint. Anything else won’t last when subjected to footfall. Also, make sure your decking paint is not out of date. If it is, it won’t adhere to the wood well.


Ensure you have the right tools for the job, such as outdoor brushes and rollers. Don’t over-apply as this may take too long to dry or too thin, and it won’t adhere properly. Remember, if you apply two coats, make sure the first layer is dry before applying the second coat, as this could trap moisture. 

How to treat decking paint

Paint doesn’t last forever. If your decking is outside, it will eventually peel, crack and weather. To help your paint job last longer, you can use a paint sealer as a topcoat over your colour to seal in the paint. 

If your decking starts peeling in a particular area, you can treat it by sanding and cleaning the affected area and reapplying the paint as above. Regularly inspect for damage, blisters and discolouration and repair them as soon as possible. 

Regular cleaning will also keep mould and mildew from growing. You can also protect your decking during the winter and harsh weather. 

Care for your decking with Build & Plumb

With the correct tools and knowledge, we can help you care for your decking all year round. Whether you paint or stain it or embrace the natural beauty of the wood, we can help you protect and treat your decking. Discover our complete collection of wood treatment and protection products to keep your deck looking as good as the day it was built.

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