Can you Paint Trex or Composite Decking? Detailed Guide

Painting your deck is a great way to give it a fresh new look and protect it from the elements. But what if your deck is made of Trex or composite materials? Can you still paint it?

The answer is Yes. You can paint Trex or composite decking, but you’ll need to take a few special steps beforehand. The surface of Trex and composite decking is textured, making it difficult for paint to adhere.

For your paint job to last as long as possible, you should sand the surface before painting with 80-grit sandpaper. This will smooth out the surface and allow the paint to adhere better.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to prep your deck for painting, the best paints to use, and how to avoid common painting mistakes. Let’s get started!

What Is Trex or Composite Decking?

Trex and composite decking is made using various materials, including fiberglass and plastic. The boards are available in different colors and look like natural wood or stone.

This decking material is durable and resistant to moisture, mold, mildew, rot, and insects. It doesn’t warp or crack over time like traditional wood and doesn’t splinter like pressure-treated lumber.

However, it doesn’t hold paint and wood, and the color fades over time because of UV rays from the sun. The best way to restore its original look is to sand it down and repaint it every 2-3 years. Here’s what Trex or composite decking looks like before and after painting.

What is the manufacturing process of Composite Decking Through Extrusion?

Composite decking is produced by extruding two or more materials into long, thin strands, which are then combined and molded into the final product. The most common composite decking products include:

PVC plastic

Wood particles (wood with most of the naturally occurring oils and moisture removed), Granules (dust created during the manufacturing process)

These materials are then heated and forced through a die. Because the materials expand while being forced through the die, they take on a shape similar to spaghetti.

The strands of decking material are cooled and cut into manageable lengths before being cleaned and dried. The resulting product is a dense plastic board that resembles traditional wood decking.

Using Compression-Molding to Manufacturer Composite Decking?

Composite decking is produced through the use of pressure-pounding technology. The manufacturer mixes composite material with water, and other additives then compress it into huge blocks at high pressures.

Once the league has been set, it’s heated at different temperatures to harden the materials inside.

The final product is a dense block that can be cut and molded into different shapes.

The manufacturer then uses a CNC machine to cut these blocks into manageable lengths before they’re cleaned and dried. The resulting product is a dense plastic board with a rough surface texture similar to traditional wood decking but better.

If you wanted your Trex or composite decking to look like natural wood, you might be disappointed after the first coat of paint wears away.

But don’t worry! You can always add a second, third, or even fourth coat of exterior paint to refresh and protect your deck. It’s best to use oil-based paints for decks made from composite materials. Here are our favorite oil-based exterior paints you should consider when painting a deck.

Can All Composite Decking Be Painted?

In most cases, painting Trex or composite decking is a good idea. However, you should always check with your local building codes to ensure your paint job will last as long as possible. 

While you can’t sand down the finish on these types of decks and expect it to stay in place forever, you also shouldn’t assume that all paint is created equally.

Should I Stain or Paint the Deck?

If you have a deck made from natural wood or composite decking, you have two great options for refinishing your deck. You can either apply an oil-based exterior stain to “refresh” the look of your terrace, or you can paint over the surface with a high-quality oil-based exterior paint. 

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Here’s my take on staining vs. painting.

You probably already know that traditional wood decks need to be cleaned, dried out, and then refinished every few years when they start to look worn or grayish. Most homeowners will use an oil-based exterior stain to refresh their deck’s appearance once it’s clean and dry.

The problem with traditional wood decks is that they don’t have a smooth surface. The rough texture causes the stain to wear away quickly, usually after one season.

Clean Your Deck Before Painting or Staining

When painting or staining your wood deck, the first thing you need to do is clean it. If the deck is weathered and old, then you’ll probably want to power wash all of the loose dirt and grime away to reveal a fresh, clean surface.

If the wood still looks healthy and in good shape, scrub it with a deck brush and a solution of TSP (trisodium phosphate) to remove any dirt or mildew that might be present.

Once the deck is clean, you’ll want to make sure it’s dry before applying oil-based paint or exterior stain. If your deck is made from wood, you probably won’t have much trouble with day-to-day moisture.

However, the composite decking material will always be susceptible to water damage that can cause bubbles or blister on your paint job.

composite decking

Which type of Paints or Stains Work Best?

Oil-based paints

Oil-based paints and stains are the best choices for most decks because they’re resistant to damage from moisture. Oil-based paint is also more durable than latex or acrylic alternatives, although you must follow label instructions carefully when applying these products.

Acrylic latex stains

It might be your only option if you’re trying to avoid using any oil-based products for environmental reasons. Latex substances can cause allergies in some people, and they don’t offer the same level of protection as most oil-based stains and paints.

Water-Based Painted

It’s essential not to use water-based coatings on decks made from untreated lumber or composite decking. These decks are susceptible to water damage that can warp or stain your deck over time.

Tips for Painting on Trex or composite decking

When it comes to painting a wood deck, the application process is usually straightforward. You’ll need a paintbrush or roller and some basic supplies from your local hardware store, but most people can complete their painting job in one day with a little bit of elbow grease.

Composite decking is very porous, so paint usually wears away quickly on this type of material. If you want to paint a composite decking material, you should consider using an exterior stain instead of paint.

Stains provide a more natural look for composite decks because they create shadows and highlights mimic natural wood grains.

Here are some helpful hints to follow when you’re painting your deck:

#1. Be Patient

The key to getting an even paint job on your deck is to give yourself enough time for the paint to dry. Most paints will take at least 24 hours, although some will take longer depending on the thickness of the application.

Fiberglass-based products are particularly slow-drying because they might require multiple coats before they offer any protection against the elements.

#2. Work from the top of your deck down to avoid smears and drips

This is a general rule for all types of painting jobs, but it’s essential on a wood deck because you’ll need to keep track of where you’ve been as you’re working.

Working from one end to another ensures that your paint doesn’t drip onto unfinished areas or smear across a painted section.

You should also consider using a drop cloth or plastic sheeting underneath your work area to protect any plants, grass, gravel walkways, etc…

#3. Keep an Eye Out for Bird Droppings

While most types of dirt can be removed with just water and some elbow grease, bird droppings might require more aggressive methods such as vinegar or chlorine.

Chlorine-based products maybe a little dangerous for your skin, but they’re very effective at removing organic stains from decks.

bird droppings on decking

#4. Keep an Eye Out for Tree Sap

If you’ve ever gotten sap on your clothes or skin, then you probably know how difficult it can be to get rid of the sticky stuff without damaging your clothing or harming yourself. Fortunately, if you get tree sap on your deck’s paint job, a few household items should do the trick:

Toothpaste – Smother some toothpaste onto the stain and leave it overnight on most types of decking material.

Pine-Sol – You might have to scrub a bit more than usual with this option, but it does help remove tree sap on wood decks.

Liquid hand soap – Scrub the sap stain with some liquid hand soap and water on most wooden decking surfaces

#5. Know Your Deck’s Type

Before you begin your painting job, make sure you know what type of deck surface you’ll be working with. Some types of woods (such as mesquite) are especially susceptible to staining from colored dye-based stains, so it might be best to stick with oil-based or acrylic alternatives instead.

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You should also consider using a pre-conditioner before applying any paint products if your deck has been damaged by moisture in the past.

Pre-Conditioner (like Thompsons WaterSeal) is like a primer for wood that will open up the wood’s pores to allow better penetration of the paint.

Once you’ve prepped your wood for painting, you can begin applying your first coat of stain or waterproofing product. Don’t rush the process by putting on too much product at once – it’s better to apply multiple coats until you achieve the desired look instead of one thick application that might not dry properly.

If you follow these simple steps when painting a composite deck, you should have no trouble getting the look you want without any problems during the process.

Just remember that stains are always better than paint, so it could be best to avoid using this type of product on top of composite decking material unless you know for sure that it will work.

How Else Can You Refresh a Composite Deck?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of stripping and repainting an entire deck, then there is another option.

New Composite Boards

You can replace your old composite boards with new ones that will undoubtedly freshen up the look of your outdoor living space. Composite decks are often made from recycled materials such as plastic bags, so why not take advantage of those efforts and bring a new sense of style to your backyard?

Resurface Decking Material

Another option is to entirely resurface your current decking material with a different color or design.

This type of project might be more challenging than simply replacing your boards, but it’s also a unique and creative way to make your home stand out in the neighborhood while respecting its original structure.

You should consider trying this if you’ve ever wanted to do something like paint your deck bright yellow or purple.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will composite deck stain and paint last?

Composite deck stain and paint are generally supposed to last for several years under good conditions. However, if the material is exposed to constant moisture or extreme weather changes, it might not be able to handle the damage.

How does composite decking compare to painted wood?

Composite deck boards are almost always less expensive than painted wood decks. This is because the manufacturing process for the composite material is much more efficient and cheaper than actually drilling holes in natural wood to make it look like a deck board.

Also, there are no costly strip-down or preparation steps involved with this type of project, so you’ll likely save on time and money if you choose this route.

How can I get rid of mildew on our composite deck?

There are several ways to get rid of mildew or mold on your home’s composite decks. You can try power washing the area with water mixed with chlorine bleach to remove any unsightly stains.

If some of the materials used to construct your deck have started peeling up, then pull them off and replace them.

Finally, you should consider applying a sealant to the surface of your deck once or twice a year to prevent any future staining problems.

When shouldn’t I use composite deck paint?

Composite deck paint is not ideal for decks made from wood materials such as redwood, cedar, or pine because it will not be able to adhere correctly to the surface. Instead, you should apply stains and waterproofing treatments if this is the case to get the best results possible.

If you have an outdoor living space that has been stained with oil-based products in the past, then composite deck paint might also give unsatisfactory results because it can’t handle oil buildups too well. It’s best to test out different kinds of paints or stains before you begin this type of project, to ensure that the results are satisfactory.

What are some alternatives to composite deck paint?

The primary alternative materials to composite deck paint include stains and sealants designed for composite decks.

You can also try using an exterior-grade primer first on your raw wood material before applying another product on top of it. 

Just remember that nothing will truly last forever, so your options might change depending on the weather conditions where you live.

How often should I reapply my deck stain?

It would help if you considered reapplying your deck stain every year or two, but no more than that unless there is some reason why it needs constant protection.

If you notice that the old stain is starting to wear off, then consider applying a new coat after thoroughly cleaning and drying your deck.

How much does it cost to resurface the composite deck?

This type of project can be fairly cheap or expensive depending on how much work needs to be done and what all you’ll need to purchase in terms of supplies. One gallon of composite deck paint might cost around $30-$40, whereas one quart will likely run at least half as much again as that price point.

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You could end up spending anywhere from $50 up into the thousands if necessary, but only time will tell how much money you spend on this kind of the project; however, it’s cheaper than having to replace all of your deck boards.

Does composite decking come with a warranty?

Composite decks are typically backed by a 25-year limited warranty, which may be extended for an extra 15 years if you purchase the paint or sealant from the company itself. 

There are some tradeoffs, though, as this kind of extended warranty only covers normal wear and tear instead of incidences where your entire deck is destroyed by fire or flood damage.

The lifetime warranty that comes with wood products is usually much better in these cases because it’ll cover any unexpected damage that occurs, no matter what the circumstances surrounding the event were.

What happens if I don’t protect my composite deck?

Composite decks need regular maintenance like any other material used to construct a home’s outdoor living space. If your deck is going to be in a shady area, or you don’t expect it to get much foot traffic, then you might not have to do anything at all to protect it from the elements.

In other cases, though, composite decks will need some consistent care to prevent damage from occurring when the weather turns nasty during autumn and wintertime.

What can I use on my deck beside a paintbrush?

You’ll typically want to stick with a paintbrush if possible because they allow you the most control over how well your paint gets applied evenly across the surface of your deck. 

You could also try using a sprayer if that’s what people in your family typically use for painting projects on the interior of your home.

How do I remove paint from my composite deck?

Many commercial cleaners can easily remove paint from outdoor surfaces without causing damage or stripping away the existing stain/sealant product.

Before trying any chemical solvents, though, it’s best to try washing off as much of the old paint as possible by scrubbing it with a stiff-bristled brush or dressing up in some protective gear beforehand.

You should then check if any leftover traces of the old paint remain and go ahead with a chemical solvent if there are still bits of paint that other methods haven’t successfully removed.

How do I remove old sealant from my composite deck?

In addition to scrubbing away as much of the existing sealant as possible, you’ll want to apply a chemical solvent to help strip off what remains and loosen it up a bit before rinsing it all down with water. 

Once the surface has dried off, you can use sandpaper or steel wool to scuff away any stubborn remnants left behind by the old sealant so they don’t cause further damage once you’ve applied a new stain/sealant product.

If you use steel wool, though, be sure to thoroughly clean and dry your deck afterward because rust stains aren’t very attractive.

Can I change the color of my composite deck?

Like wood, composite decks can be painted and stained to change their color and appearance. You don’t even have to strip off all of the old product beforehand either because coatings designed for existing decks are compatible with paint and stain.

Can you paint the old Trex deck?

Old Trex decks can’t be painted or stained directly because the composite has already absorbed too many chemicals used to create and preserve it.

Trex decks can only be repainted if you first strip off the old product with a chemical solvent that won’t damage the underlying wood. 

You need to sand down then heavily damaged surfaces of your deck before applying a primer that’s compatible with composite decking materials.

Does paint stick to composite decking?

Yes, paint is often the best option if you want to give your deck a fresh new color while protecting it from future damage. Composite decks can also be painted just like wood, sanded, and varnished to preserve the material for longer periods.

How do you restore faded Trex decking?

It’s best to thoroughly wash faded Trex decking with a pressure washer before considering how best to restore it to its original color. For example, many people recommend using a belt sander, but that method leaves behind dozens of deep scratches that can look bad and require a lot of extra time and effort to sand out later on.

It would help if you instead used a chemical stripper to remove any existing stains from the deck before using another power tool to sand down the entire surface of your Trex decking.

Once it’s been meticulously scrubbed and dried off, you can apply a paint primer and new finish for long-lasting results.

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