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Start with a thorough cleaning, making sure the deck dries for a full 24 to 48 hours before applying the first coat of stain or sealant. Two coats are recommended, as deck wood, over time, will develop cracks that will expand with the passing of the seasons.

If deck wood is new or in good shape, consider a transparent stain that lets much of the grain show through. A semi-transparent stain will reveal less grain and a solid color will cover completely. Solid stain is recommended if wood is splintering or otherwise showing signs of damage.

Whatever product you choose, be sure it repels water and contains a UV protector to resist fading. Also, look for a water-soluble or oil-based stain. Oil-based products will last from three to five years.

Apply stain or sealant evenly and watch for drips, especially on vertical services. Be sure to “back brush” as you apply, pushing the material into the cracks of the deck boards, making sure it’s absorbed completely.

• If deck upkeep is more work than you want to do yourself, there are many companies that provide deck repair and maintenance services.

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