If your outdoor deck is looking tired, it may be high time to give it a “pick me up” in the form of a new deck coating. And there’s no better time to refinish a deck than spring, when you can enjoy the fruits of your labor all summer long.

In years past, many homeowners used oil-based or “alkyd” deck stains, but these products have some major shortcomings: for one, they soon become very brittle; and second, they absorb the sun’s harmful UV rays. As a result, oil-based coatings quickly degrade, wear away, and must often be re-applied as often as once a year.

Technology has come to the rescue, and manufacturers now offer some far better options in the form of water-based 100 percent acrylic deck coatings. These products share none of the shortcomings of oil-based coatings, so they not only make a deck look great, but last much longer.

Debbie Zimmer is a paint and color expert at the Paint Quality Institute, which does extensive testing on deck coatings. She explains why 100 percent acrylic coatings perform so much better than oil-based products.

“Unlike oil-based deck coatings, water-based 100 percent acrylic coatings form a very flexible protective film that is also highly resistant to UV rays. So, acrylics are really the perfect ‘antidote’ for what ails oil-based deck products,” she said.

Semi-transparent acrylic stains are lightly pigmented coatings that permit you to either maintain, or change, the color of your wood or composite without hiding its grain or texture. These coatings are water-repellant and contain special ingredients to keep mildew in check. Semi-transparent coatings typically last about 18 months.

Solid color acrylic stains — sometimes referred to as opaque stains — have more pigment than semi-transparent products, so their color tends to obscure the grain of the wood. At the same time, that added pigment provides extra UV protection and better durability, so solid color stains last longer, typically, three to five years.

Wood restoration acrylic coatings are the product of choice for severely weathered and some habitually neglected decks. These are basically super-thick acrylic coatings that actually fill in and conceal cracks and crevices up to one-quarter inch deep. Plus, these coatings create a slip-resistant finish that resists future cracking and peeling. As with the other acrylic products, these come in a wide range of attractive colors and offer some mildew protection, too.

“All of these acrylic coatings have excellent adhesion to wood decks and other surfaces, which is another reason they last so long,” Zimmer said. “And unlike oil-based or alkyd coatings, which require solvents for cleanup, you can clean up after applying water-based acrylics with plain soap and water.”

To learn more about acrylic deck coatings, including information on surface preparation and application techniques, visit the Paint Quality Institute website at www.paintquality.com.

Since 1989, The Paint Quality Institute has been educating people on the advantages of using quality interior and exterior paints and coatings. The Paint Quality Institute's goal is to help educate consumers, contractors and designers by providing information on the virtues of quality paint as well as color trends and decorating with paint through a variety of instructional platforms and conferences, and traditional and new media vehicles.

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