Eeek! Contractor just ruined my deck with solid stain!

kjcbMay 28, 2007

Hi all,

Similar to Birgit's story in an earlier posting, I've had a contractor mess up my deck (with solid stain). I'd like to avoid having to do the entire deck in a solid stain that we never wanted in the first place! The good news is that I caught them partway through the job, so now I'd love some advice as to what to do next...

The background: The paint crew that just painted my house was to also pressure wash the deck and put a semi-transparent stain on the wood. We even showed them the Behr "redwood" stain we had used previously, but the owner said they would use a better quality Sherwin William product. The owner understood what we wanted, but apparently did not communicate it properly when he bought the stain (and he didn't check it himself, or with us before the workers started the application). Seems someone didn't know the difference between "REDWOOD" and RED WOOD -- what they were applying is an opaque stain in red (that is actually a horrible orangey color).

Before I knew it, the guys had applied it to the entire railing and supports, as well as about 15-20% of the main deck boards before I ran out and stopped them. I called the owner and he immediately agreed it was wrong -- he came back with some kind of Sherwin Williams stripper, and we can see the patch where he tried it (didn't work -- and he left without talking to us about it).

The owner took off with the can of the stain they were using, but we saw the word "solid" on it, so we believe it was Sherwin Williams acrylic solid stain.

***The questions:

-Is there anything that will get us back to the natural wood look we asked for? I've seen people here recommend Strip-x or sodium hydroxide strippers -- would that do the trick in this case?

-Would sanding work? Sanding all the railing supports wouldn't be possible (they have an intricate crossing pattern), but I think it would be possible to sand the horizontal "floor" boards.

-Related to the above question, if we can fix the floor boards only, would you get rid of the railings and start over by building new ones?

-Would you trust the bozo painters to do any of this? If not, how much would you "charge" them for messing up like this? We still have not given them their final payment for the job (which included the house), so we have $2,000 to "work" with.

Any and all other suggestions are welcome! Thanks!


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You need to strip and acid wash the whole thing. I cant belive I do all this work for Ken>>get the rad system from www.restore-a-deck.comThe problem is painter guys and for the most part general contractors have no idea about deck finish,or decks all together really. They just go to the paint store and buy whatever they recomend.

I vote keep the money and dont use them again to finish the deck. They probley will do fine painting a house but a deck surface is a whole nother smoke. J

    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 10:02PM
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I think at this point if you want it redone its best to let them do it, but make sure you are advising them on what products to use to strip, and for goodness sake the stain.

Im gonna also suggest to you, or anyone that you double check any product that goes on the deck regardless of who is buying it, or applying it. A small sample of the actual product can go a long way to prevent a disaster.

I'd almost have to lay some of the blame on you as you did not intervene on the purchase of the product and over see the process. We all know that mistakes happen and contractors are busy people juggling many balls at one time.
It would be nice if were otherwise.

Im sure the contracter will want to make good on this and get paid. To hire out will likely cost you and you will still have to counter with the contracter. Basically you did some background work before you hired them so they can't be so evil.

Regarding using RAD to strip, I would try it first.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 10:34AM
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Thanks, John -- you nailed it when you say that painters just take whatever the paint store gives them. Hopefully others can learn from my mistake!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 2:44PM
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I guess I have a contrary opinion on the solid redwood stain. I have a small vacation home in the Brazos Cliffs area of New Mexico. Elevation 7500 feet, 90 inches of snow in an average year, monsoon seasons for two months in the summer and outrageous doses of UV year round. I am just a Walmart/HomeDepot kind of guy. When I bought the property 6 years ago the detached garage/shop had very heavy discoloration of cedar siding below the snow level, was cracking badly and looked on its last legs. I ran a horizontal 1x4 of cedar around the structure just about a foot above snow line and stained with then available 3/5 year Behr semi-transparent cedar above the 1x4 and Behr solid cedar stain below. Currently the solid stain looks as good as when I put it down. The semi-transparent is also in not bad condition except for the new cedar rail I installed on the west-facing side...not bad, and I really like the color pairing of solid and semi-transparent. At the same time we stained the deck and rails with just semi-transparent 3/5 redwood. At year three, the deck was clearly in need of staining, but I put it off until this spring from general laziness. The vertical surfaces at year 5 or 6 were in need of restaining from upclose appearance, but looked fine from the road. The product seemed to me to meet its projected longevity goals as advertised.

This spring I decided it was time to stain the house and again used the Behr stains. The house, snow-shedding deck cover columns and beams, and vertical supports of the railing for 800 sf of deck are in semi-transparent redwood 5/8 yr and the deck and horizontal hand rail surfaces are in the solid 10/25 yr redwood stain. I really like the color combination and expect long service from the solid stain. We did the 15-min surface treatment prior to staining, but nothing special beyond that. No bubbling, no stickiness, no problems at all. Yes the solid is a bit orangey, but the combination of semi and solid looks justs as attractive as we found it to be on the garage years before. Obviously color tastes vary, but I think using solid stain in high stress applications can be a great labor savings in the long run. I wouldn't want my whole house in the solid stain color, but with the house freshly stained in semi-transparent, I find the solid stain to provide a classy-looking trim effect on the horiontal features of the deck. In a couple of years I plan to stain the garage redwood too, but there is no rush--the stain is holding up just fine for now.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 2:32PM
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nice perspective drjhigg. I like solid stains as well, where appropriate.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 12:12AM
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As as contractor, I just love this line from the above thread: "....stupid bozos.... The problem is painter guys and for the most part general contractors have no idea about deck finish,or decks all together really. They just go to the paint store and buy whatever they recomend."

I mean really, who are you kidding. Painters and contractors deal with paint and stain everyday and for, whom I would assume to be, a homeowner, who is farming out the job, to make such a comment clearly shows their lack knowledge about contractors. It does no good for contractors to waste time or burn bridges with clients.

The first thing any contractor who has been in the business for more than a couple of years will tell you, is to avoid BEHR at all costs. "See a bear in the woods, wait then run.... see a Behr in Home Depot, just run...."

To be VERY clear, the client should pick the color and purchase the material to be used. Many contractors request this on paint and stain jobs to avoid issues like this. As a homeowner, you should be responsible for your color and material choices especially, if you don't trust "stupid bozos" like us contractors......

GC-18 years in the business

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 11:49PM
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"To be VERY clear, the client should pick the color and purchase the material to be used"

I agree with the color, of course, but when it comes to materials, im not going to let a customers choice of sub par materials ,(if they choose something like behr), have a snow balls chance in hell of tarnishing my reputation unless it is stated in the contract that they are responsible for it. If they absolutely insist on their product choice, that's the route i take by getting it in writing.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 10:13AM
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You dig up a 2 year old thread to bi*ch and moan.

Get a life.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 9:46AM
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The same thing happened to me! Same color and all. What was the out come?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 10:46PM
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Not all painters are familiar with stains.Depends on what they specialize in. That said mine used a solid color stain instead ,because she couldn't get rings from paint cans out of the wood. Color wasn't right either. The sample that she when't by would have worked,but was not the same in the can. Ihad her get them to add a little more green,problem solved. Problem now is the surface picks up every speck of dirt when walked on. Solid stain is water based. Apparently it has raised the grain of the wood. This a new covered porch with a tonge & grove floor. Am I correct in thinking I will need to sand floor & put something like exterior Varathane on it for durability ?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 5:57PM
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You are correct the finish will have to be removed.

Never use " exterior " varathane on an outdoor project.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 7:12PM
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michele, we used a flat floor sander that we rented to do our deck. Do it every time we restain. I just wanted to warn you not to layer oil based stain with water based. This can lead to real problems if the water based is below the oil I believe. Someone here should know or go to painting forum.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 11:55AM
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