I’m excited to share a project I  finished a couple of weeks ago. It was first on my spring to-do list, and I’m very pleased with myself – getting the job done, before the Solstice arrived, because it was the biggest job on my list for the summer, and something that I’ll enjoy every day :

Coffee in the sun.

The happiest place on earth.

Back Story:

When I bought my house there was a large platform deck smack in the middle of the backyard. The yard itself was one of the deciding factors for why I bought the house, and the deck was one of my favourite features of the whole place.


Great bone structure. Just needs a little work.

It was love at first sight. Sadly, it was in pretty bad condition and didn’t have much life (or love) left in it. I don’t think it had ever been stained and the wood was rotting in several places. I really liked the polygon shape of it and I loved that it was the focal point of the yard, but it needed to be completely ripped out and rebuilt:

With a little help from my friends....

Renos in the rain!

In the summer of 2010 my very generous and talented Daddio rebuilt the deck from the ground up with stunning west coast cedar. (I still don’t believe I deserve something so beautiful.)


A work of art.

And then I went and wrecked it.

What followed was a series of really bad choices that turned something simple and stunning into something pretty fug.  The complete opposite of a makeover. A make-under, if you will.

Bad Choice #1:
The first year I had the new deck in I decided to let it age and weather — instead of staining — to get what I thought would be a beachy, west coast, weathered look. Well, THAT was a big mistake. What I ended up with was a deck that just looked like a crappy old deck that had lived through a thousand Alberta winters. It looked exactly like the original deck. Blech. 

(Interestingly, no photo proof of bad choice #1 exists)

The next summer I called in the Army of Dad again, and he helped me sand the wood down to it’s original wood grain and I picked out what I thought was a nice cedar color to stain it properly. 

Bad Choice #2:
Being a rookie homeowner and a seemingly color-blind wood re-finisher, on round#2 I mistakenly chose an opaque stain instead of a translucent one. Yep –  I covered up beautiful cedar wood grain with a solid ugly stain. Awesome. On top of the wrong finish, I also chose what turned out to be an all-around crappy color. Although labelled ‘cedar’, the color I chose was a bit drab, sort of milky and way too orange. I was not a big fan:



Because of the work I knew it would take to fix this up right, I decided to live with it for a couple of years – until last summer when we put up the new pergola. I  spent hours toiling over the color for this masterpiece – doing it the RIGHT way and sampling at least 6 different stains before settling on a beautiful cedar toner. I LOVE the color of this, but it really made the existing deck look terrible in comparison.


Pretty Pergola. Crappy Deck.

Fast forward to the week after Victoria Day 2015 (aka “May Long”) . I embarked on a week long ‘stay-cation’ to sand and stain my deck and get the yard prepped and ready for summer. It was a beautiful week weather-wise and I got the whole thing done in a couple of days. If you don’t want to read the rest of this post, here is the finished product:


Hello there, handsome. Take off your coat and stay a while.

I’m frankly, thrilled with the end result.  I’ve finally got the deck to where I want it to be color-wise.  The stain is a slightly richer, redder color that complements the existing cedar-toned fence and pergola. I didn’t want to be too matchy-matchy with the pergola (I think it would have been too much of a good thing).  I was also a bit gun-shy about making it too orange like it had been in the past. And lastly, I didn’t want to keep it natural color with a clear toner (mainly because the wood is now a bit aged I wanted to conceal it’s wrinkles and age spots). Ultimately, I wanted it to be a tone or two darker than the pergola, wanted to see the wood grain through it, and wanted a nice rich, warm color (but not too brown). Success!

Because it’s super fun – check out the slideshow of how the deck has changed over the six years that I’ve lived in the house.



Also – ’cause I’m a sucker for a cool before-and-after, here is a slide show showing the week-long re-finishing project from start to finish:


And, finally, in case you are interested, here is what actually went down that week:


I spent a good deal of time sanding off the existing stain. Using a belt-sander (borrowed from a friend) – starting with 40 grit and working up to 120 (with an 80 grit in between). Nothing much to report here. A lot of elbow grease, patience and sunscreen got me through the day.


Once the sanding was done, the big color decision was locked down. I spent about an hour debating stain with the guy at Lowe’s. He convinced me everything I knew was wrong and I should just trust him. And I did.


I went with Cabot Australian Timber Oil in Jarrah Brown and stained the whole thing by hand (to make sure I had even coverage and no brush strokes).


Here is a photo of the first few strokes…and trust me, I was having a bit of a panic-attack thinking I chose poorly. Again.


I took a few breaths, trusted my judgement and carried on. I got a bit excited mid-day, and wanted to see what the deck furniture and accessories would look like.


And then finally – the last brush stroke (about 6 hours later):


My Facebook friends are already familiar with the end result because I was jumping with joy when I finished. I admit I went way overboard posting photos that night, but I don’t care. And here it is again. In all it’s freshly stained glory:


I freaking LOVE it.

Same deck – one year apart:


Here’s what it cost:

Deck Refinishing – Project supplies and budget:

  • 1 Can of Cabot’s Australian Timber Oil (Jarrah Brown): $51
  • Belt-sander: Borrowed from a friend (thanks DL!)
  • Belts for sander 5 – 40 grit / 5 – 80 grit / 5 – 120 grit x 5: $30
  • Wicked,  short-handled paintbrush: $9
  • 1 small can of white paint for trim: $17

Project total: $107


And that’s it…the deck is done!