I was out of the office and working in one of our RepcoLite stores last week Friday and a contractor walked in with some questions about a deck.
Here's the scenario: He's been hired to fix a deck for a homeowner. The deck had been painted before and was now peeling. He'd power-washed it and managed to remove about 20% - 30% of the old paint. He was at RepcoLite to pick up some primer and some paint so he could prime the bare spots and get everything coated.
Well, that sounds easy enough, but there's a problem and after explaining the situation to him, I decided it was perfect for a blog entry. So, here's what we covered at the counter:
- OLD, FAILING PAINT CONTINUES TO PEEL: The first concept I needed the contractor to understand is the notion that once the paint starts to fail and peel, it will continue until it's mostly gone. Unfortunately, it doesn't typically do this all at once. So, even though the contractor had done a good job and had power-washed the deck, the problem was that much of the old paint remained. The reason this is a problem is because...
- NEW PAINT/PRIMER WILL NOT MAKE OLD PAINT STICK BETTER: Putting new paint overtop of old paint--old paint that has started to peel--will not bond that paint to the surface. The new paint WILL bond to the old paint . . . but if the old paint is starting to fail, it will eventually peel and take the new paint off as well. This is bad news because...
- ALL THE WORK YOU DO CAN BE WASTED: If you go through all the work of power washing, priming and painting a deck that is covered with old paint that has started to peel, the chances are the spots where you primed and painted BARE WOOD will hold up alright for a couple years. However, equally as likely is the chance that the old paint that you couldn't remove will peel soon, taking the new paint with it. In the end, you (or your customer) will be left with the same situation they just thought they rectified.
Well, we covered those problems and I could tell it sunk in and made sense to the contractor I was helping. He then asked the obvious question: WHAT DO I DO TO FIX IT, THEN?
That's a bigger concept, but to briefly sum it up:
- POWER WASH! A good place to start is where my contractor DID start: a good power washing. Much of the time, the pressure from the wash will blast off much of the loose and flaking paint.
- SAND/STRIP THE DECK! If the power washer doesn't completely remove the paint--or at least remove 80% - 90% of it, you may want to consider stripping the deck with chemical strippers or possibly renting a sander and sanding the paint off.
- FLIP THE BOARDS OR INSTALL NEW! This is a hard-core solution to the problem, but would typically fix the issue. Some decks are in good enough condition that flipping the boards to the uncoated side gives a new surface to work on. Other decks might be better suited simply being replaced.
- BITE THE BULLET AND DEAL WITH THE FAILURE! Another option--though not terribly appealing--would be the option of simply accepting the failure. This means you weigh all the options and decide that for your situation, you're better off just cleaning the deck as well as you can and then priming and painting and accepting the fact that next summer you'll probably have to do it again.
In the end, I write all of this for two reasons: first, to give you some tips if you're dealing with a deck that's been painted in the past. It's important to understand the limitations and the struggles you'll have trying to make it look good. Sometimes at least knowing those issues up front will help! Secondly, I mention this mainly for this reason: To help you realize that paint on a deck is NOT THE WAY TO GO. It sounds good, it looks like a good option, it's appealing to many people . . . but the problems quickly arise and then, dealing with them can be extremely time-consuming and expensive! Paint's great for many surfaces. A Michigan deck, however, isn't one of them!