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Ask the Carpenter: How to protect your new deck this winter

When is a deck ready for staining? Contractor and carpenter Rob Robillard weighs in.

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Q. I replaced my 20-by-14-foot deck with new pressure-treated wood five weeks ago, and the surface is still beading up. What kind of protection can I put on the deck for the winter that will allow me to apply semi-transparent stain in the spring?


A. You are referring to the advice that you shouldn’t stain pressure-treated lumber until water stops beading up on the surface and the wood is ready to soak up the stain. Following construction, most manufacturers of stains recommend waiting a few months before applying a finish to pressure-treated wood.

Applying a water-repellent sealer or a penetrating semi-transparent stain to all exposed wood surfaces is recommended for new pressure-treated Southern pine lumber. A water-repellent sealer will help control surface splitting. Deck boards are often exposed to the direct rays of the sun and tend to collect moisture, so the weathering process is accelerated.


You should be able to use a sealant in a week or two. Follow up with a stain in the summer — but avoid using a solid-color stain, which peels.


Q. Several years ago I filled nail holes in my exterior siding with DAP plastic wood filler. It didn’t hold. It is western red cedar siding, and I’m preparing to stain it. I have applied an oil based-primer. What do you recommend to fill the holes? I also re-nailed the siding to the studs, so now I have nail-less holes. Thoughts?


A. Caulk is not the best-looking solution, but it certainly will work. For years I primed the nail holes, stuffed them with window-glazing putty, and smoothed the areas with a putty knife. When they were dry, I primed the filled spots again, then painted. Nowadays, I use Elmer’s exterior putty with great results. One of my painting contractors uses a product from Abatron, but I have not tired it yet.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to [email protected] or tweet them to @robertrobillard. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at


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