I Stained My Deck the Wrong Color: What to Do

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i stained my deck the wrong color

Staining your deck is a great way to rejuvenate it and make it feel new again. However, if you don’t choose your color carefully, it could end up less attractive than before. 

It is one thing to pick out deck stain in the store but it is quite another to see it on the deck. It is not uncommon for people to choose a color they love only to hate it once it’s applied. 

If you have stained your deck the wrong color, it can be very distressing. 

Fortunately, there are ways to change the color and give your deck the refresh you have been wanting. 

By following the below steps, you can get the right stain color for your deck. Even though it might be frustrating, it is reassuring to know that you can still make changes. 

The process of changing your deck stain color is relatively simple. It only takes a few steps and you can get the look that is closer to your original plan. 

These steps include:

  • Choose a darker stain color 
  • Apply many coats
  • Dry the deck completely between coats 
  • Apply a deck sealer

How to Know if You Stained Your Deck Wrong 

blue painted deck

Knowing that you have chosen the wrong deck stain color is difficult. You might not know it right away, which can be even more frustrating. 

The only way to really know if you have stained your deck the wrong color is to live with it. 

Sometimes, the color may not be exactly what you had in mind. Other times, however, the color may grow on you and you might change your mind. 

Try to live with the current color for at least two weeks before you decide to change it. 

One of the reasons a color may not work includes the color of the wood underneath. Looking at a swatch of the color in the store is very different than applying it to wood. 

Since stain is not like paint, it has some transparent qualities. This means that the wood underneath will affect the way the stain looks. 

If you have lived with the color for a couple of weeks and still don’t like it, there are ways to change it. 

Pick a Darker Color 

Unfortunately, if you don’t like the color of your stain, you will most likely need to pick a darker color. 

When you paint wood, the paint covers everything and seals around the material completely. Stain, however, has some translucence. 

This means that a lighter stain will not show up on top of a darker stain. It may change some of the qualities, but you will not be able to completely cover it. 

If you intend to change the stain color, choosing a darker color will almost always yield better results. 

This is a good opportunity to limit some of your options and narrow down your choices. Since you can only choose darker colors, this will give you a smaller pool to choose from. 

Think about what your original intent was for staining and how a darker color can achieve that goal. 

Use Many Coats 

One of the best ways to make sure that your new color pops is to use many coats. 

While this will work if you are sure you want that color, you can also use your judgment. The more coats you apply, the bolder the color will be. 

If all you want to do is darken the color a bit, one or two coats should be enough. However, if you are trying to replace the color, you will need to use multiple coats. 

If you want to completely replace the color of the stain, use at least four coats of the new color. This will be enough to penetrate through the old stain and cover it completely. 

If you are unsure how dark you want the color to be, give it some time between coats. This will allow you to get a good idea of how it will look. 

Dry Completely Between Coats 

dry completely between coats

The best thing you can do if you want to replace a color of stain is to let it dry completely. 

When you apply stain, it will look darker than it will when it is still wet. This is because the stain is still sitting on top of the surface. 

It may take a few hours for the stain to completely dry and seep into the pores of the wood. Allow the stain to completely dry before you add another coat. 

Not only will this give you a good idea of what the stain will look like, but it will also improve its longevity. 

Stain that has been allowed to completely dry will last much longer and cure completely. 

Apply a Sealer 

Once you have applied all the coats and are happy with the color, you will want to protect it. The best way to do this is to apply a coat of sealer

A sealer like a polyurethane clear coat will make the color look richer and protect it. 

Make sure you get a waterproof sealer and that it is meant for outdoor use. 

Apply several coats of the sealer, allowing it to dry completely between coats. Then, let it set and cure for at least 72 hours before walking on it. 

This will give you the deep, rich color you have been wanting. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What happens if you stain over stain?

If you apply stain over stain, nothing may happen at all. This is especially true if you are applying a lighter stain over a darker stain. 

However, if you are applying dark over light, it will change the color considerably. 

Can you stain lighter over a darker stain?

You can put a lighter stain over a darker stain but it may not make any difference. Depending on the color, though, it may change certain characteristics. 

The only way to be certain is to add the stain to an inconspicuous area of the deck. 

Will vinegar lighten wood stain?

In some cases, vinegar will lighten wood stain. However, it depends on the stain and the wood. 

If you want to completely remove staining, you will most likely need to use a wood stripper. 


If you have stained your deck the wrong color, the important thing is to not panic. There are things you can do to get the look you have been wanting. 

By following the above steps, you can end up with a fantastic deck color that you love. 

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Michael J. O’Connor is a writer and marketing specialist from the Bay Area of California. A graduate of Sonoma State’s Creative Writing program, he spent many years as a contractor and carpet layer, learning the ins and outs of flooring and general contracting. When he’s not typing away at his desk, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, woodworking and collecting rare books. See full biography here.

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