Prepping the deck in my opinion is the most important part of staining or painting a deck. The least expensive option is to gently power wash the deck to remove mold, mildew, algae, etc. It takes the deck longer to dry with this option and sometimes a little sanding is needed afterward.
The more expensive option is to use a deck cleaner/wash and neutralizer on deck. Most deck cleaning products cost about $20 per gallon. Neutralizers remove the cleaner from the deck so the stain or paint will adhere to the wood. Sometimes gently power washing the deck is still needed to get hard to reach areas. Spending $100-$150 on deck cleaner/neutralizer is not uncommon for a medium-size deck.
Once the deck dries it’s finally time to apply a good deck stain or paint. One coat of stain is good. Two coats of stain is usually better. Painting your deck or porch is
another option. If you start painting your deck you will probably have to always paint your deck unless you stripe off the old paint. Striping a deck of paint can be a time-consuming process.
In Dubuque, because it seems to rain a lot and because of heavy dew most of the year I usually recommend water-based stain because it dries quicker than oil-based. Oil-based products might get absorbed into the wood more but they usually take about 24 hours to dry. A lot can happen in 24 hours.
Preferred products- Sherwin-Williams Deckscapes, Superdeck, and Superdeck Deck and Dock