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This weekend, I had to break the news to my poor house: after our six long years together, I have been secretly working on other homes.

Not often, of course — I’m still totally into my house. It just, you know, breaks up the monotony of patching and painting all the new molding around the windows a little. Or maybe it was that I wanted to see if this guy I know could use a paint brush without it looking like a murder scene from Dexter (spoiler: he can’t, but it was also really funny).*

Dexter crime scene
If you can believe it, his shirt looked even worse. UPDATE: see below for that pic.

How I found myself in this (literal) mess was that I woke up, poured myself some coffee, and casually texted/offered to help on Saturday morning. A word of warning: there is often a difference in the response you’ll get based on when you offer this kind of help. If the project hasn’t started yet, and you’re not really willing to actually help, you have a much better chance of the other person responding with something along the lines of, “actually, thanks, but I think I’ve got this.”

deck stain before

But if the person has already started working on the project, my advice to you is to only offer help if you actually do intend on helping. At this point in the game, their thick, shiny coat of hubris wears a little thin, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s in tatters (as a person who has been in this position, if you just keep pressing on, you’ll eventually finish it and be so proud of yourself for having accomplished the task on your own that you might actually end up feeling like a total badass).

deck stain before first coat

But, as you all probably know, DIY projects are kinda my thing. I may have even been known to push people to finish projects when they aren’t exactly expecting it (coughcough Kit).

Anyway, since he’d already started the project, he quickly accepted my offer, and I took a small detour to get an extra brush (because he only. had. the. one. Who buys only ONE brush?!?! Oh, right… normal folks who don’t spend their lives doing this kind of stuff).

Products Used & Recommended for this Project:

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It’s a good thing I got my own, because even though he took my advice to get a Purdy brush (and I’m also partial to this rubber-handled sash brush), his was completely soaked in stain up to the handle (but, I suppose this now gives me a great excuse to just go ahead and write a decent basic painting tutorial with all of my tips, so win-win). He was fully dunking the brush and then hitting it against the giant 5-gallon bucket of stain, sending splatters and smears of it onto his shirt, his pants, and onto parts of the deck he wasn’t staining yet (which would have left dried drip spots if left that way). Obviously, I found this pretty entertaining… even if he looked like a freaking serial killer in the process (he’s actually hiding his blood-red hands behind his back for some reason… I think it was how hard I was laughing).

serial killer shirt

The additional good news there is, I was recently sent some cleaning products that are meant to clean up jobs like this with ease. I get paint on my hands pretty often when I’m working in tight corners, so I think there will be a few opportunities coming up to put it to the test! (I think the shirt is a goner, though.)

My style is to scale down and use a smaller container, then dispose of the messier things at the end. Since he didn’t have a paint trim cup or a coffee mug he was ready to part with, I went with the next best thing:

my paint brush
SOLO cups: not just for parties anymore.

He’d already had the deck pressure washed to get rid of loose or peeling pieces, so it had about a week to dry off before staining (tip: when it comes to pressure washing a deck, a pro is usually recommended because it’s easy to use too much pressure … for DIY, a cleaning solution that you scrub on with a stiff brush and rinse off is much more user-friendly; just be sure to get the deck totally clean before reapplying stain). Before too long, we could already see some major changes between the old and new deck stain (this one is called Cape Cod Red by Sherwin-Williams).

old red vs new red

As more parts of the railings were finished, it started to dawn on me that we still had a long way to go…

old rails vs new rails stained
So. Many. Balusters.

Tip: it also helps to trim back bushes that are touching the rails before you get stain all over them. Ha!

trim hedges

After cranking up some tunes and simply pressing onward (and on, and on), we actually managed to get the whole guardrail done. This was definitely the more time-consuming part, so our stopping point ended here for the day:

back of house

The best part about doing a project like this is the immediacy of the outcome. Here is how it looked in the morning before getting started:

backyard deck stain before

And here’s how the same angle looked when we grabbed a beer to cap off an afternoon of patient work.

new deck stain

Nice. Oh, and I snapped the below picture when I noticed how different the wood looks between leaving it without stain (meh), the older stain (which still did a better job of protecting the wood than leaving it bare), and the new deck stain being applied (it looks a little thick on the application in this photo, but the dirt on the other side needed to be wiped down before I could continue to brush it out… a rain shower a few days prior left a couple of the lower supports sandy).

how to restain a deck

Perhaps thanks in part to my ambitious promise that the deck could/would be done before the end of the week, he went right ahead and finished up the rest on his own in the days following. I was sent these photos just earlier today, in fact:

cape cod red deck stain

new deck stain after

have been toying with the idea of adding a platform deck to my own back yard, and I think this project just clinched it for me. There are a few things I’ll need to address before I can make it happen, but working on this one has really given me a boost to start thinking about how great a larger space for entertaining would be. So, I guess if I’m going to work on a house other than my own for a change, I may as well come back with a longer to-do list for myself.

Hmm. I wonder if I can find anyone who is now obligated to help…

*Personal update: I always try to share my life as honestly as possible on the blog (good or bad), but many years ago when I broke up with my ex, I realized that I should be really careful about who and what I put on the blog, the things I say about them, etc. I want to share funny stories and points of view about the goofy stuff that happens as long as everyone’s having fun with it, but in consideration and respect for jobs and lives outside of the site and what have you, I don’t want to rush into sharing too much about someone else and/or embarrass them in a way that makes them want something removed (the permanence of the internet being the internet, and all). Anything I put on here when mentioning anyone I’m involved with is discussed prior to publishing, but it’s just going to be a while before I get comfortable sharing more info; call it a peace of mind thing. Thanks in advance for understanding!

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  1. Looks great, y’all did a fine job and it was very nice of you to help with the hardest part, the balusters. I do believe you inspired him after hammering out the balusters with just a few tunes and a couple of beers to pull up his painter pants grab a new paint shirt and finish the walking surface himself. A win win and his deck is now red and ready for summer fun.

  2. That deck is amazing and that house is omg adorable. And you guys did a great job with the stain.

  3. wow! what a difference. looks amazing! wish you’d included a pic of the dude with his dexter stained shirt on :) Maybe he’s camera shy. what a cute little house, too! now the deck matches the house much better. a deck on the back of your house would be amazing!

    1. ps – love the idea of using Solo cups! going to remember that. i have 2 old tupperware bowls i usually use, same idea i guess. just more cleaning involved.

    2. He’s not camera shy at all, actually. I had a photo, and just kept second-guessing if it’s too soon to post him. I want to wait a little while until he and I have talked about it a little more before I share his pics online (jobs and blog life and such), but I suppose I could crop him out and show you the shirt! It was SO serial killer. :)

  4. -Looks great!! :)

    I’m getting ready to tackle mine…. myself… and I have a big deck!! I’m just doing clear stain/sealer. What’s your phone number, I’ll give you a call. ;) HA!!!

  5. Amazing what a difference a fresh coat of paint can make. I must say stunning choice of colour. It looks stunning. However, your lawn needs a mow! :P

    1. Ha, I’m sure he got to it eventually. When you complete a big project like this, the lawn can WAIT.