What are some good tips an or tricks when it comes to sanding an older deck or do you even fool with it if there isn’t any furring? Orbital sanders? Grit? Ect? Just getting ideas and thought processes flowing

Thanks guys

Good idea to set the nails or screws below the surface. It only takes one raised nail or screw to mess up a piece of sandpaper. If they are nails you can use a punch, don’t use a hammer only or you will have mark all over the deck that will be accentuated when sealed or stained. We use 12X18 orbitals with an array of grits. We use 20 and 36 grit on the low end for tough coatings which we follow up with 80 grit. If it is just a light go over we just the 80 grit and never go over 80. On older, cupped wood it help to use two pads to do a better job. We also have a drum sander but rarely use it and not good on older cupped wood. There are a lot of specialized tools for wood restoration depending on how much you do.

The part about using a punch for the raised nails instead of a hammer is so true. I banged in a few nails over the years that looked fine but when I sealed or stained a deck the blows to the wood really stood out. Everett is just one of the very few wood experts I know who is so detailed in his explanations that he even mentions a punch for nails. It was reasons like this I took his class yrs ago so I could get a fast track heads up on my local competitors in my neck of the woods.

Could you share some of the specialized tools that you are refferring to? Also, what exactly is a 12X18 orbital sander? I know what an orbital is just not familiar with the 12X18. I have done some deck cleaning and stripping so far but I have two really nice strip and stain deck projects coming up and depending on how they go, I may push hard in that market area. I have enjoyed working with the wood so far and I want to learn as much as I can about it. I don’t mean to sound like an idiot because I’m not. I did a lot of wood work when I was young and I have a pretty good grasp on it. But when I’m trying to learn I like to dumb it way down because most pros do things that they have done for so long and it would seem irrelevant to them when discussing it. I hope that makes sense? It is hard to convey a thought through the written word at times without getting so lenghty that the reader loses interest.

Thank you so much for you input so far!

In the picture above you will see various types of sanders used in the trade. 12X18 refers to the dimensions of the base, the pads, and the sandpaper. If you notice the two orange sanders on the floor they are tapered so that they will get the hard to “get to” area on the deck and below the bottom of many railings. The generators we use because we do not use property owners electric in case a breakers get thrown or in many cases there are a lot of non-working outlets. We are often asked to work on people’s properties when they are on vacation and if a breaker gets thrown how will it get turned back on? Most the time the deck is located near a kitchen and the gfi may be in the house. This has happened to us which is why we use generators. This assures we always have electric on the jobs and no down time. Depends on how far you get into this and if you will be performing repairs and add-ons like lighting, post caps, etc. which gets into extra 'tools of the trade." What I mean by specialty tools is the ones that apply to extra services or how much volume you are going to do. Nails guns, compressors, a dremmel, various saws, a rake (to fix any mulch or landscape after you have trampled through it), and so on that help make the jobs easier and separate you from competitors.

Thanks for the kind words John T!

That is very solid and useful information!!! The power issue never crossed my mind! I’ll invest in a genni for sure if I keep going this direction. I’m not too sure about the add on stuff. I’ll have to mull over that for a while! Hopefully I can get up there for some schooling soon. I just have to get some funds in the business account LOL

Aritt, I will tell you that because I will replace boards and do repairs I get jobs over other contractors. After the deck is built there always seems to be something to be fixed or repaired when we perform an estimate or go back for maintenance. Most homeowners are challenged to find someone for these repairs. The deck builder usually does not come back to replace a few boards after a few years have passed. Handymen are very inconsistent and will not usually know how to restore and stain. I have found that homeowners would rather deal with one contractor instead of multiple contractors as well. In this regard I have separated my company from many others. These add on services add to the top line as well as allow me to charge for the base services. My suggestion to anyone is to be exact in what services you will offer and do them 100%. Do not take on more than you are comfortable with and don’t allow an overload of services that cause you to perform your other services at less than 100%.

Very good advice and I promise to use it! Thank you, sir!

+100 on everything Everett said. Especially the generators! :slight_smile:

not supposed to sand if you don’t have to

I think I get what you are trying to say, that is in a perfect world. I think the OP meant when you do sand. Bottom line is we work with wood and depending on what level of restoration you are performing you will use sanders. Personally, I sand on every deck which includes all hand rails and and benches where butts are going to sit. Natural degradation of the wood calls for this periodically and lessens the chances of someone getting a splinter. While you should never use enough pressure to cause splintering, which is what I think you meant there are Associations coming out with just the opposite of your statement. We as an industry have a MAJOR problem on the horizon and not much is being done to help. Specifically, the WRCLA (Western Red Cedar Lumber Association) has come out with “no pressure washers” used on western red cedar because of the damage done and one of their recommendations is sanding.
I find this very troubling and look at it like the gun control argument. WRCLA believes that because most of the damage they see and what is reported occurs when using a pressure washer therefore, a pressure washer causes damage. The pressure washer does not cause the damage it is the person operating the machine that causes the damage. Lack of knowledge in wood restoration, lack of knowledge on proper techniques regarding lowering PSI with tips for wood restoration, and lack of knowledge on the equipment causes these issues. It is like stating that murders involve guns so if we say no guns there will be no murders with guns. Trying to stop people from using the most popular piece of equipment in exterior wood restoration by saying it causes damage is irresponsible in my opinion. We should be teaching and educating the correct methods and procedures for exterior wood restoration with the use of a pressure washer.

So what can or should we do to help the WRCLA understand the mistake they are making? I understand they have good intentions in protecting the consumer, but they are also unknowingly hurting them. I would think that removing a key tool, the pressure washer, and using sanding alone instead is going to drastically raise prices for the consumer.


The history here goes back awhile but this is actually not that new. Ed Burke who used to head this region of the WRCLA and was a member of the Joint Coatings Committee was against the use a pressure washer, period. He didn’t want to budge from the argument and when I was on this committee invited him onto one of the BB’s and when he came to answer questions and have dialogue he was not treated well. As you might guess, all the bad aspects of these forums came out and instead of respecting him, the position he held, and his overall resume he was attacked. It got personal and he eventually had enough and left with a worse opinion of us than when he started. He is no longer there as I have been informed. I personally have taken steps to address this issue regarding a standard for our part of the industry. It has been submitted and I am hopeful it will act as a starting point to get something definitive for the woodies in our part of this industry. I will keep everyone informed as this progresses. As far as everyone else, we all need to get together on Best Management Practices , regarding exterior wood restoration. Right now we have some roof guys doing one thing and other roof guys doing another, no different than others though as there are still plenty of guys out there pressure washing with water only and slapping a stain on the wood. I actually find that most of the issues I run into are from painter’s. In my opinion it is one part education and one part communication regarding the issue. I am hopeful that at some point this year that we will be able to have a wood only meeting and use of a research facility.

I prepped a deck last weekend that will need sanding completely. I used a waterhose to rinse the stripper and it still furred! Stripper used was from Pressure Tek and I used it at 4oz to a gal with 15 minutes dwell. This deck is 15+ years old and was extremely aged with no to little maintenance. Any idea on how I could have kept it from furring so bad? I just couldn’t get the right combination it seemed, no matter what I tried. Does this happen to you or is it my total lack of experience and something I will learn over time? I’m just sick over the whole deal because I don’t understand it. It brightened nicely and should come out good with sanding but I just wasn’t expecting that much furring. I bid out good on the job so I won’t lose money but I won’t make as much as I had hoped for either. Well below my hourly goal.

If it was that old with little maintenance why did you use a stripper? Strippers are made to melt off a finish but, when you put them on bare wood it usually is on and off real quick. Sodium hydroxide will burn the wood and cause it to fur up a lot, especially bare wood. Many times though you do not need to sand these just buff them out. Many folks use an Osborn Brush to buff it out but there are other attachments that will get the job done as well. As you get experience you will know when to use bleach and when to use a combo. Bottom line is you may not have to sand and I would guess it was from the stripper on weathered wood. Best for these depending on how bad it is, is going to be a percarbonate bleach or a chlorine bleach solution. I’ll wait to hear why you used a stripper first, that may be all the problem was.

Thanks! That’s probably it! I saw some glazing that I thought was residual stain/sealer. Since these are new owners they couldn’t contribute much information. I just made a rookie mistake. This was the oldest deck I have fooled with so it was just pure ignorance on my part! What is the tool you are referring to?
Thank you so much for the help!

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This a link with an example: Osborn buffing brushes from Log Home Store