Two toned deck staining – Tips, ideas, steps

Published On: 11th April 2012

Two toned decks can be an excellent choice for many deck owners.  When a two toned deck is chosen this typically means the railings and support columns of your deck are protected with a paint or solid stain.  The deck flooring is then coated with a semi-transparent or translucent stain.

Ideas for two toned deck staining

  • two toned deck minnesotaMatch your exterior siding or trim.  This is probably the most common method our customers choose for two toned decks.  The reason people choose this option is they want their decks to blend in with their house.  Your home most likely has 3 colors (trim, siding and windows).  If you add a 4th color with a natural toned deck (brown or red) you will bring more attention to your deck and less to your home.  This could be good or bad depending on your preference.  When matching the paint with your siding you will still be staining your floor with a translucent stain brown in tone hence the “two toned application”
  • Match your deck floor stain with your painted rails.  This can be extremely difficult because stained wood doesn’t have one tone.  Stained wood will have several tones within each board due to changes in density, porosity, age and natural wood tones.  We’ve found the best way is to remove a step, stain it your preferred stain color and bring it to the paint store to get a match.  It’ll probably take your paint store some trial and error to get a match you like.  In our photo gallery of deck staining in Minnesota you will see a before and after picture of a deck with “mohoganny stain”.  This deck was a two toned match.
  • Two toned deckStain your top rail.  This will provide you with less long term maintenance and it looks really nice in combination with painted rails.  If you paint your top rail you will probably have to touch it up every year because paint peels on horizontal surfaces.  The look to the right is a stained horizontal rail, painted ballisters and stained deck floor.

Advantages to two toned decks:

  • Two toned deck staining or paintingAny color option can be chosen for the railings because your using a paint.  Paint can be tinted to any color while translucent stains usually vary in tones of brown and red.  This allows you to match the color of your siding or trim or any color that fits your exterior decor.
  • Paint when applied correctly is extremely durable on vertical surfaces.  Most stains will last 3-5 years on vertical surfaces while a paint can last 10 years and more.  Paint or any ”Film Forming” products do not perform well on horizontal surfaces so make sure you don’t apply it to the horizontal decking. When applied on horizontal decking the solid stain or paint will most likely peel within six months to a year.

Dis-advantages to two toned decks:

  • Initial costs of labor (or your time) and materials to paint your deck railings will be more costly than staining your entire deck one color.
  • Once you paint your deck railings you can never go back to a translucent stain.  Strippers are typically only effective for removing oil based stains.  Some heavy duty strippers can remove semi-transparent water based stains but removal of acrylic solid stains or paints is nearly impossible.  Especially when your talking about areas where paint sinks into screw holes or cracks in the wood.  So if you paint your railings it’s a long term commitment.

Still want a two toned deck?  Here’s how.

  1. Start by cleaning your deck.  If your deck is moldy or dirty you’ll want to apply a deck cleaner followed by a deck brightener.  After each process you should rinse the wood thoroughly with a garden hose or a pressure washer.  Make sure you use low pressure if a pressure washer is used.  The use of the cleaning agents will allow you to kill mold and remove dirt without the use of high pressure which could damage your wood. Check out our deck cleaning tips for more in-depth instruction on deck cleaning.
  2. Wait a couple days for the deck to dry out.  This usually means waiting till your deck has a moisture level less than 12%.
  3. Mask the floor with tape and drop clothes.  You can’t get any paint on the horizontal surfaces because every drop will be highlighted after stain is applied.
  4. For new wood or untreated wood start by applying an oil based primer.  This will seal out any oils in the wood and provide an excellent bond for the top coat.  To avoid having to do 3 coats of paint ask your paint store to tint the primer to your desired final color.  It’s best if it’s one tone lighter or darker than the final coat so you can see areas you’ve missed as you’re applying the final coat.
  5. Apply final coat of paint.  We like using duration paint because it’s the best paint product Sherwin Williams has to offer.  It’s also the most expensive at $50 plus dollars a gallon (hard to say exactly because the price keeps going up).  Using a premium paint is worth the extra cost because the most expensive part is your time or labor (if you hire someone).
  6. After finishing all the details with the painted railings remove the tape and drop clothes from the decking.  Place the drop clothes under the deck.  Now you’re ready to apply the stain to the deck floor.
  7. Use a thick deck brush with the ability to screw in a broom stick or extension pole.  This will save your back.  Be careful as you approach the painted rails.  When approaching the painted rails brush towards the middle of the decking.  If you brush towards the painted surface you may flick stain onto the paint.  Stain is very thin so you have to be careful not to get it on the painted surfaces around the deck.
  8. Once you finish staining the floor check around the outside of the deck to make sure stain didn’t get on any painted surfaces.  This includes the support columns and the ends of the deck flooring if the flooring over hangs the exterior trim.
  9. That’s it, you’re done.  Wait 24 hours and you’re ready to use your deck again.

Please leave your comments and questions below.  I’d be happy to hear from you.

Posted by: Conor OKeefe

7 Responses to “Two toned deck staining – Tips, ideas, steps”

  1. those are very nice looking

  2. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My site has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization. Do you know any ways to help reduce content from being ripped off? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  3. Rachael says:

    What finish do you recommend for the railings. I have stained my deck but do not know what finish to use on my railings.

    • Connor O'Keefe says:

      Rachel – I am assuming you are going for a two toned deck and you have stained your floor with a translucent stain. If the option is not available to stain your rails with the same translucent stain then I would use Duration paint. If you are going over an unpainted surface then I would recommend using an oil primer for the first coat and tint it to the final color you desire. Then apply a second top coat of Duration paint. This paint is available at Sherwin Williams.

      • Jesse Smith says:

        Connor, I am in the same boat. I have a deck railings that are pressure treated. Should I use the same method that you mention about the Duration paint, with an oil based primer first? Also, what about water based?

        Thanks, Jesse

        • Connor O'Keefe says:

          Jesse-

          I would use an oil based primer. The oil primer is good for sealing out oils from the wood so they don’t bleed through the paint. The oil will also soak a little deeper into the wood and provider better adhesion to the substrate. For the top coat I would use Duration paint. It’s a little spendy but you’re not going to use that much paint on the railings and you want something that is going to last. Railings take a long time to prep and paint so don’t go with a cheap paint.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *