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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I had a small deck (90 sq/ft) that was trashed by rain.

Here are the details:
Cedar deck, 10 years old, previously stained.

I stripped the old stain using a liquid stain stripper. Scrubbed and rinsed. Applied brightener. Rinsed thoroughly. Waited 4 days to dry.

Went back with a moisture meter. Deck was a bit wet (17-18% moisture according to meter). It was probably wetter deep inside the boards but those handheld moisture meters don't penetrate very well.

Sanded using handheld orbital sander using 60 grit to remove burs and splinters and attempt to scuff up some wood grain (next time I'll use something more aggressive like 40 grit and a larger sander).

Applied Storm Systems semi-transparent toned oil stain using wet application with brush.

Looked great. Customer was happy. One day later it rained unexpectedly then rained on and off for the next two weeks. I went back today (1 month later) to look at another part of her house and saw the deck. It looks like all of the stain had washed away and been pushed out of the cracks and crevices. It was starting to grey.

My questions are:
Has this ever happened to any of you before? Especially with an oil stain?

What's the deal with cedar? It seems like the wood grain is almost too dense to accept stain. When I was applying the stain it was hardly soaking it up and I had to lightly wipe down some of the excess with a rag.
 

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I have had it happen plenty of times. I learned which products were best to overcome this. In your situation, it sounds like you did everything as good as you could and Mother Nature just bent you over.

- The moisture content could have been a factor in penetration.
- The stain itself could be a VOC reformulation which means very slow curing.
- High speed sanders with 100+ numeric grit could cause a burnishing effect where wood gets glazed but you used 60 grit which is also my go to on a R.O.

10 y.o cedar should drink up stain. Unless.. somebody put a wax or parafin containing weather sealer. They are extremely difficult to strip out completely. This would be my guess if other variables were eliminated.
 

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I have had it happen plenty of times. I learned which products were best to overcome this. In your situation, it sounds like you did everything as good as you could and Mother Nature just bent you over.

- The moisture content could have been a factor in penetration.
- The stain itself could be a VOC reformulation which means very slow curing.
- High speed sanders with 100+ numeric grit could cause a burnishing effect where wood gets glazed but you used 60 grit which is also my go to on a R.O.

10 y.o cedar should drink up stain. Unless.. somebody put a wax or parafin containing weather sealer. They are extremely difficult to strip out completely. This would be my guess if other variables were eliminated.
if there was ever any Thompson's brand products put on, that could be your problem. Did you check the wood with a few drops of water to check for penetration? Always do that on the day you are going to stain. But, the use of a stripper should have alleviated any issue with this. All Thompson's products have parafin or silicones in them, which can penetrate deep into the wood were it is impossible to get out. This is the number one issue that i have dealt with when it comes to re-staining decks in my 31 years selling paint. Did you use California's deck stripper or one from a box store. I know it may seem like it shouldn't make a difference, but remember that the products available at box stores are engineered to be the extreme minimum required to be effective in the eyes of DIY'ers, who wouldn't know the difference between something that actually works and something that doesn't.
 
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Another thing i have seen the local Amish painters do on cedar decks, is to wet the wood AFTER you have sanded it and let it dry for a day or two. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it does open the sanded grain up better for the stain to penetrate. Unfortunately, mother nature will have the final say on weather this is viable or not. (pun intended)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks you for the helpful responses. The customer still really likes the deck but I told her it wasn't up to our standards and that we'd re-do it later this summer to polish things up. It turns out that it was simply the rain and standing water (starting just a few hours after the stain was applied) that trashed the finish.

Lessons learned:
1) weather is unpredictable.
2) in regions prone to spontaneous rain or thundershowers wait until the driest season to do decks.
3) Don't stress about little bumps in the road, as long as they are few and far between!
 

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I must've not done enough decks in my life time, but everytime I stain the deck, It absorbs so fast I have work my butt to keep wet edge,
 
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