How to Paint in Between Deck Boards — A Step-by-Step Guide

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Protecting your deck isn’t just about aesthetics—it’s about longevity too! When left unprotected, the spaces between your deck boards can trap moisture, leading to unwanted rot, warping, and even cracks. Think of it this way: it’s like leaving your windows open during a rainstorm and then wondering why your home is damp.

But don’t fret! In this guide, I’ll unravel the secrets of how to effectively paint between those deck boards. By the end, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to give your deck the care it deserves, ensuring it remains both stunning and sturdy for years to come. 

Ways to Apply Paint Between Deck Boards

Method #1: With a Bristle Brush

A bristle brush is a viable tool when painting a deck with big and small gaps. Apply deck paint like you would a bristle brush.

These brushes are available in a wide range of sizes, making it easy to pick the right one for your needs. Don’t try to force paintbrushes through itty-bitty openings, as doing so will harm the bristles.

Method #2: Crack and Groove Brush

The crack and grove brush is a must-have for every paint job, so pack it.

staining deck with paint roller

Put the brush in a paint tray and press on the edge of the tray to eliminate drips. Then, working back and forth, leave a paint trail as you run the brush across the deck planks.

Method #3: With a Pump Sprayer

You can use a pump sprayer to apply deck paint to get into tight spaces like the gaps between deck boards. The pump sprayer is an example of an applicator with a propellant canister powered by air pressure.

You can put paint in the can after you’ve mixed it with the appropriate thinner. When pumping, the pressure in the tank needs room to rise, so make sure to leave about a 1/3 of the tank devoid of water.

To generate pressure, pump the sprayer while keeping the nozzle a safe distance (approximately six inches) from the surface of the deck boards. Then, spray your deck with a consistent coat of paint by pressing down on the trigger.

Method #4: Moldable Sponge

The ideal sponge for this job can be folded or shaped to fit into the deck board cracks and crevices.

moldable sponge

Saturate the sponge with paint, then squeeze out any excess on the tray’s rim. The next step is to apply a uniform coat to the crevices by rubbing and dragging the sponge. Soak up some more paint and start over.

If you use more than one coat of paint, it’s essential to let the first one dry completely.

How to Prepare a Wood Deck for Paint

Step #1: Clean the Deck Thoroughly

To begin the process of painting between deck boards, it is crucial to start with proper tools for cleaning. By utilizing the appropriate cleaning equipment, you can effectively remove dirt, grime, and any other debris that might hinder the painting process.

Many homeowners find that a pressure washer or power washer is the best tool for this first cleaning because it can blast away dirt, debris, and any remaining paint from recently painted decking boards.

washing deck

Also, pressure washers are effective at removing excess paint, but they can also cause harm to the wood deck if not handled with care.

Step #2: Sand it

After you remove paint and clean the surface, the deck boards should be sanded. The purpose of the sanding procedure is to remove any excess paint or peeling paint from the deck after the initial cleaning, making the wood look as new as possible.

Suppose you want to avoid contributing to an uneven surface, sand evenly to remove paint only where necessary. Dust from the sanding process can be simply swept away, but once that’s done, the deck boards including the wood underneath must be cleaned again.

Step #3: Clean it Again

Since you have previously stripped the deck boards down to their barest essentials by cleaning and sanding them, the second cleaning should go quickly and easily.

Using a garden hose and the water’s natural flow, you can easily remove the dust and dirt off the boards using a garden hose and the water’s natural flow.

Deck Stain Brush Applicator - Deck BOSS by Perdura

Do this in the morning so the deck boards can dry in the sun for a few hours before you start fixing the minor cracks and preparing to apply the first coat of paint.

Step #4: Fill in Cracks and Gaps

Before painting decks, check some of the deck boards on an older deck because they may have gouges, cracks, and protruding nails you need to fix.

Deck board cracks of different depths and widths require other methods of repair. So before, you fill the cracks, note that gaps wider than 1/4 inch need paintable acrylic caulk, whereas cracks no wider than that can be filled with a reliable exterior-grade wood filler.

Wood Filler

Wood filler is easy to work with and will help your stain look more consistent. Wood filler is a cellulose and epoxy product that, once dried, is just like regular wood that you can nail, drill, and sand.

Acrylic Caulk

A paintable caulk is needed to fill any more significant cracks or gaps in the deck boards. Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines, although, in general, the procedure will be comparable.

acrylic caulk

Remove the caulk’s tip from the tube and spread it evenly over the holes. Before applying stain or paint, you must ensure the cracks are dry, clean, and clear of debris. Also, you must know how to get caulk off your hands to be safe from skin irritation. 

Depending on the brand, you may be able to stain it in a few hours, or you may have to wait for it to fully cure before painting.

Pump Sprayer

A pump sprayer is a device that dispenses stains by having the operator pump the handle. Before using it, you must fill it with paint and then pull and push the pump handle to apply a smooth finish. Point the sprayer at the gap to fill cracks and move it along the crack’s interior.


A sponge will also do the job if you don’t have access to a pump sprayer. Sponges are ideal for filling in crevices because of their malleability and other characteristics. They are just as easy to use.

staining deck rails with Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood

If you have a crack in your wall, all you have to do is dunk the sponge into the paint, wipe off any extra paint by dragging it down the side of the container or paint tray, then insert the sponge. If the gap is long, you can stain every inch by dragging a sponge.

Some products, like a trim paintbrush, look like a sponge mounted on a stick and perform the same function effectively.

Bristle Paintbrush

When painting in tight spaces, a regular bristle paintbrush can be helpful. The only thing you have to ensure before utilizing it is that the brush fits in the gaps. You can do this by trying out different-sized brushes on the crack.

However, if you want to keep the bristles on your brushes in good condition, avoid using them on surfaces with tight spaces between them. The deck size is a significant consideration when deciding on a tool to fill the spaces between deck boards when painting. 

Linzer 0600 Project Select Premium Stain'N 3550 Paint Brush

A paintbrush or sponge is ideal for working on smaller areas of more extensive deck boards, but they are impractical and time-consuming when working on a more significant site.

Meanwhile, a sprayer is helpful for big decks with heavy traffic. But for larger cracks, use a paintbrush and a sponge for small cracks that a paintbrush can’t reach.

Step #5: Prime the Surface

Priming the wood before painting is crucial before you paint in between deck boards. Primers are specialized undercoats that help your top coat adhere to the deck boards to prevent stains.

Follow the primer’s directions and then wait for the recommended time before painting over the dry, cured primer. 

Step #6: Paint in Between the Boards

Spread the stain evenly and wait for it to dry before applying a second layer.

painting deck

The deck stain or paint must be spread smoothly and suit the surface you intend to coat. Use a semi-transparent stain or dyes that are suitable for use on pressure-treated wood, for instance.

Note that staining or painting your old or new deck floor should only be done in dry, mild weather and not under direct sunlight.

How to Remove Old Paint from the Deck

Method #1: Scraping

Besides a power washer, you can also remove the current paint from hard-to-reach areas on the decking boards by using a scraper.

Clearing the deck stain and sharpening the scraper when it gets dull is necessary. Whereas if the deck stain is still dry, use vinegar or spirit until the paint softens.

paint scraper

I advise caution when applying stain to the wood not to scrape off the finish.

Method #2: Chemical Strippers

However risky they may be, chemical strippers are often the most effective way to remove paint or an old interior and exterior wood stain. Using them is preferable to sanding because of how quickly and easily the paint is removed.

Read the manufacturer’s guidelines thoroughly, as they may differ from brand to brand. Inaccessible areas can be reached with the help of wire wool or wire scrub brush and the stripper, you can also use an extension pole if needed.

Method #3: Heat Gun

Ensure you have the proper safety gear before using a heat gun to remove the old paint since they can be dangerous but also quite effective.

As a safety measure, you should equip yourself with goggles, a face mask, gloves, and a ready water supply. Activate your heat gun and hold it 6 to 8 inches from the painted area. Warm the top layer gradually. Pass the pistol from side to side and up to down without stopping.

person holding a heat gun

Heat will soften the paint, allowing you to peel it off with a paint scraper after it wrinkles. Varnishes become practically glue-like when heated, making the heat gun less useful than it would be if you want to paint between deck boards.

Paint Application Process for Between Deck Boards

Step #1: Break the Paint’s Protective Film

If you want the paint to stick to the deck boards, remove the protective paint film that has formed over the previously painted surface. 

To do this, get some paint thinner onto a sponge or rag and wipe it down the voids between the planks. As soon as everything has dried out again, cleaning may begin.

Step #2: Clean the Surface’s Dirt and Debris

The second step in the deck painting process is to use a clean rag dampened with paint thinner or mineral spirits [1] to wipe off the deck planks.

lady cleaning deck

Step #3: Cover the Area Under the Deck

Protect the grass and plants beneath the deck boards and any other surfaces you don’t want to paint with old bedsheets or drop cloths.

Step #4: Start Painting

You can use modern implements in applying paint in the spaces between deck boards. I use a crack and groove brush, others an old toothbrush, and others a spray paint and paint roller with a paint tray.

If two coats are needed, you should wait for the paint to dry completely before applying the second coat, even though it will be inside the expansion joints among boards.

How Should I Paint Narrow Gaps?

Painting a narrow crack in your patio or decking using a pump sprayer is possible. When pumping air into the sprayer, ensure enough area for the paint.

painting deck grooves

The next step is to apply an even coat of new paint to the small opening by pumping the sprayer under constant pressure and pressing the trigger.

Will I Need to Paint Both Sides of the Deck Boards?

Most individuals paint the side of their wood decking with the most foot traffic and sun. You can still apply paint on the area under your deck, using paint rollers, if you like.

Seasoned pros always suggest giving your deck a thorough paint job—yes, that means both sides! If you’re keen on maximizing protection and have the time to spare, it’s a worthy step. 

Is it Recommended to Just Paint Over Old Deck Paint?

The answer is yes. However, this is conditional on the present paint’s condition. If the deck’s existing paint is in good shape and adhering well, there’s no need to strip it before painting.

Painting vs. Staining the Deck

Learning how to paint in between deck boards is easy, but how about staining? 

newly stained deck

While staining is preferable because it is less labor-intensive and keeps the wood’s natural grain and color more intact, it might not conceal surface imperfections when applied to bare wood or older boards.

While painting the deck boards will require a little more work, the extra effort will pay off in increased protection from moisture and wear. 

Tips and Tricks for a Flawless Paint Application Between the Boards

Don’t Paint in Direct Sunlight

Keep your deck out of the direct sunshine as you paint it. If you do this, your paint may dry too quickly and look spotty.

Work From Top to Bottom

Painting the deck from the top down will give you more time for each piece to dry, making your task go faster.

Use a Reliable, Top-Quality Stain

A sealant and primer in one or a reliable stain does double duty on wood before painting. The wood can then be sealed with a stain that resists mildew. Besides, make sure you use a top-quality paint for wood if you want to achieve better results!

deck painted with Thompsons Waterseal

Prep the Corners

If you want clean, even corners and to avoid drips, trim corners of the spot, and you will paint with your paintbrush.


What can last longer than deck stains and paints?

Paints last longer with oil-based paints as the most water-repellent. Meanwhile, latex paints are the most UV-protective. Decks with a stain finish typically need to be redone every few years.

When should I paint a deck after it’s power washed?

You should wait to apply any paint until the deck surface is entirely dry after power washing them to use any paint. Before painting the deck, you should wait at least 48 hours, but at most 72 hours.

Should I apply black paint to my deck?

If you want to make a statement with your old or new deck, black is an excellent choice. If you have a tiny deck, black is also a fantastic choice because it will stand out without being overwhelming. For good options, here is a list of the best black paint for wood furniture, decks, and more!


Elevate the look and value of your home with a simple trick: painting between deck boards. By addressing those tiny gaps, you not only achieve a sleek, seamless finish, but you also ward off unwanted debris. Say goodbye to that unkempt appearance and make your outdoor space truly shine. Trust me, it’s a game-changer!

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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