25 year old deck in bad shape with newbie DIY-er on the job
I've been researching for a few weeks for options to fix up my old deck (of unknown to me wood). It's pretty damaged, with grooves and cracks all along the floor, faded and worn out stain that shows silvery/grayish underneath, and splintery surface that also has significant wood peeling (if that makes sense). The deck is about 200 sqft, on the second floor with a walk-out basement underneath, and has stairs to the lower level.
I posted some pictures HERE.
I do know exactly what went on the deck last: Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Wood Finish (Cedar Natural Tone #501) 100% acrylic.
The deck is clearly in pretty bad shape and I'm pretty sure it was not cared for and maintained as it should have been (I've had the house for about a year). The house itself is 25 years old and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the original deck. At the very least, the stairs already show signs of some wood rot though the main level appears solid. While I recognize it may be time to rip the old decking off and replace, I am looking for a way to spruce it up and get a few more years of life out of it, and avoid significant expenses until the full replacement. I plan to focus on the main floor first and then decide what I want to do about the stairs and railings.
I'm myself an inexperienced first-hand DIY-er but not afraid of tools and elbow grease and have helped around many home improvement projects in the past. I've been reading a ton about deck options and yet I'm pretty confused about the right steps to take, so I would appreciate some guidance and advice. Thus far, I have honed in on the following steps:
1. Sweep and spray deck with Wolman DeckBrite (percarbonated cleaner).
2. Powerwash with 500-1000psi (we'll see what works best, though I know the general recommendation to keep the psi low)
3. Sand floor with 12x18 floor sander (probably start with 36 grit given the roughness of the floor, and have countersunk the nails about 1/16 in).
4. Potentially use some wood brightener/neutralizer after sanding.
5. Apply a new coat of semi-transparent stain/sealer combo (and likely not Behr :), but I'll get there probably in separate post).
Besides general thoughts whether the above is reasonable, I'd appreciate guidance on a few specific questions I'm struggling with:
1. Do I actually need to clean the deck before sanding?
2. Do I need to strip the current Behr finish before sanding? Based on my research, this 100% acrylic finish will be a huge pain to strip and if I'm sanding anyway, I was wondering if I can avoid stripping it chemically.
3. If the floor is uneven due to bending of some of the planks, cupping, etc, should I be trying to send the whole thing even or use a smaller hand sander to finish it where the big sander cannot catch?
4. In what case should I use the wood brighter/neturalizer? If I end up just cleaning and sanding, do I need it? If I end up having to strip chemically, do I need to brighten/neutralize?
5. Is there any way to determine what wood the deck is made of and does it even matter at this point?
I appreciate everyone's time and help!