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Deck Coating Guide for California: Your Best Deck Paint Coating Guide

Estimated Population: ~39 million people

Common Deck Surface Types: Concrete, Metal, Board

Regulatory Considerations: Title 24, Rule 1113 VOC Limits, SB721

Average Annual Precipitation: 14 inches

Humidity In Densely Populated Areas: 5%; May = 75%+, Nov = 40%

Natural Disaster Risk: High; earthquakes and wildfires

Average water damage claim in California: $9,633

Average pro-deck paint cost in California: $4-$6/square foot

California’s not like other States. Few other places have the same range of weather conditions, from the Alpine mountains to the high Mojave Desert and the Pacific Coast. But the cities by the ocean deal with the toughest temperatures and heaviest rain.

It’s a demanding combination for a deck to contend with, and if it sits over a living area you need to be confident that your coating will keep you dry. In California, the best paint coatings must also cope with high average summer temperatures.

So between the climate and the condition of your deck, what‘s the best route to success?

The Climate in California

The State of California Energy Commission has helpfully divided the state into sixteen different climate zones, each of which has its own tailored regulatory advice. What is common to all areas is that high temperatures can be an issue.

When you combine high temperatures with maritime ocean climatic conditions it can quickly deliver heavy pulses of rain, thick fog, irregular tornadoes, and the remains of tropical storms running up from the South.

What this means is that your deck paint must deal with a lot of weather. On the coast up to 50 inches of rain a year, and up country, in the sequoia forests, expect at least 100 inches. While in the high desert hills of the Mojave, the driest place in the USA, it still has to deal with frost.

First Steps

Before you start anything a comprehensive survey of the condition of the deck is key to the success of your project. Deck painting can be disruptive, and like many home improvement projects, it will take time away from other, more fun activities.

Preparing and starting a paint job properly means it will be longer before you need to think about doing it again. Done right, a paint job can last at least five years, even under the tough California skies.

How do I Prep My Deck?

  • The first thing to do is remove any furniture, plant pots, or anything else that isn’t fixed to the deck.
  • Any items that remain, such as railings, or light fittings, should be properly secured.
  • Remove any loose, damaged, or broken materials.
  • Now is the time to have any professional jobs done, such as electrical works, preparation for renewing, or adding light fittings, etc.
  • Clean the deck thoroughly. Pressure wash if possible. Most paint coatings won’t adhere well to a surface that has contaminants such as dirt, grease, or oil remaining. Ensure surfaces are dry before applying any coatings or implementing repairs.
  • Remove any flaking and peeling paint, any spalling concrete, or rotted plywood.
  • Make sure any damaged areas are repaired properly. Fill any small holes. Sand off any lumps, bumps, or other irregularities.
  • Cover windows, doors, faucets, electrical outlets, or anything else that you need to keep clean and unpainted, with tape and a polythene cover.

Remember, if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. No paint product will fare well on a poor surface.

When Can I Paint My Deck?

In California, the mornings and late afternoons can suffer a little from high humidity. In the mountains, wait for Spring to be properly underway so you can see at least two dry days in a row.

Most deck paints don’t do so well in damp conditions so it’s important to ensure the work can be done when the risk of rainfall is low.

But even in dry weather, with humidity levels on the coast being what they are, usually the best time to start your deck painting is mid-morning, at about 10 am. Most deck paints take between two and six hours to fully cure, and California professionals all aim to be off the deck by 3 in the afternoon.

By 4.30 pm the deck should be ready to take foot traffic. For larger deck areas be prepared for it to take a little longer. Perhaps pencil in two or more days to give yourself time to do a proper job.

Pro Tip:

Avoid painting external decks on windy days to prevent contaminants from being blown onto finished areas.

What Do I Need to Paint My Deck?

The great news is that you don’t need any specialist kit to paint your deck.

A roller with a long pole is perfect for deck painting. A pole sold for ceiling painting would be ideal. Use a smooth roller for a flat finish, or a textured roller for more grip.

A tray for the paint. 

  • A deep well roller tray that can hold up to two quarts of paint at a time is a good choice when you have a large area to cover.  
  • Or perhaps even a Wide Boy for the biggest jobs!
  • A gallon of Deck Flex will get you across 100 feet of deck on a well-prepared surface.
  • Otherwise, you may already have a paint tray that you have already used about the home for internal decorating. 
  • As long as it is cleaned before use, by all means, save your dollars and use it again.

2 1/2 ” paint brushes are ideal for cutting in around the edges and applying additional primers if setting geotextiles on repairs or joints.

Fiber mesh tape and caulking are essential to ensure all those small cracks, joints, penetrations, or other repairs can be seamlessly carried out. You will want to fix your deck with confidence, whether it is timber, concrete, or metal.

Use the fiber mesh to transition between substrates, from plywood to metal flashing, for example. Mesh reduces cracking due to movement between different materials, and separate panels.

Pro Tip:

You will likely get paint on your footwear and your clothes, so either buy appropriate coveralls or remember to wear your old painting duds. Single-use gloves are also recommended as they will protect your skin as well as save you time washing hands!

Will I Need a Primer?

While some paints are single-coat epoxy resin coatings, or elastomeric acrylic paints that don’t require a pre-coat, few paint finishes from big-box retailers work well without a primer to aid adhesion to the deck.

In all cases, the final paint coating is the part of the job that takes the shortest time and is over quickest. Proper preparation, whether primed or not, will deliver the final satisfying success story for your deck.

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