Can You Paint Trex Or Composite Decking? (Guidelines Explained)

Composite decks are a durable and beautiful alternative to outlast pressure-treated wood. They’re also much less expensive than luxury exotic lumbers such as Brazilian walnut or tigerwood. There is a downside to composites, of course, and that’s the fact they can fade due to sun exposure.  

In this article, learn how to paint composite decking, such as Trex, to renew its appearance and even prolong durability against the elements.  

Composite decks are constructed from combinations of woods, plastics, or other materials rather than lumber. These boards won’t rot or splinter, and their fading is often much slower than wood decks.  

A popular composite decking brand is Trex, which offers multiple options to fit many styles and budgets. Their boards are eco-friendly, utilizing 95% recycled wood and plastic fibers in their manufacturing.  

trex deck with chairs

There are three types of boards you’ll come across when researching composite deck materials for your home:  

  • Wood-Plastic Composites
    These are what industry leader Trex manufactures, and the name basically says it all. Wood plastics are made from wood fibers and plastic, resulting in an astoundingly realistic appearance. Although wood-plastic deck boards mimic actual lumber, they’re stronger and will outlast many types of wood. 
  • Capped Composites
    Although pricier, these boards will outlast wood plastics due to the polymer coating that’s added during production. It functions like a sealant on wood decking, keeping the elements out and protecting your boards for longer. 
  • Plastic-Lumber
    These are constructed from nothing but plastics. While they may seem less eco-friendly than wood-based composites, these boards often integrate recycled plastic materials. What’s more, they’re 100% recyclable, which can't be said of many wood plastics. You can get them with or without wood grain textures, as well. 

Can You Paint Trex Decking? (Or Other Composite Decking) 

Very rarely will you need to paint a composite deck such as Trex, although it can be done when you want to refresh its color or change your deck’s style. Wood-based composites can even be stained if you prefer that to paint.  

Composite decking is meant to last for decades, but it will fade with enough exposure. Therefore, the main reason to paint Trex or other composite decking is for aesthetic purposes. A pleasant bonus is that painting will increase its durability, giving it an extra layer against the elements.  

trex decking with shoes

What Types Of Paint Can You Use On Composite Decking? 

The kind of paint or stain you use on your composite deck boards will be determined mostly by their materials. While a stain can’t be absorbed into plastic lumber, it will work on many wood-plastic boards. Paint will take to all three types if applied correctly.  

For the best results, use a latex exterior paint. This will completely coat both wood plastics and plastic-lumbers, and will also work on most capped-composite decks. It’s formulated to withstand sun exposure and dries considerably faster than other paint types.  

However, consult the manufacturer that produced your deck boards before you paint. Not only will painting often void your deck warranty, but it might not be advisable for your particular composite. Additionally, manufacturers can give guidance as to what paint formulas are best for your specific deck.  

If you’d rather just touch up some areas of your Trex or other composite boards, you’ll want to color-match the paint so that it blends into the existing color. Your best bet is to either bring a board into a hardware or paint store, or a small object that matches the color of your deck. Pictures can suffice in some cases, but there are so many variables in a photograph versus real life that make exact color-matching too difficult.  


How To Paint Trex Decking: DIY Guidelines  

Supplies You’ll Need:  

  • Cleaning materials such as rags, a soft-bristled brush, vinegar, mild soap, and water 
  • Pressure washer 
  • Sandpaper, medium grit 
  • Paint rollers or a paint sprayer 
  • Appropriate exterior primer 

Steps To Properly Paint Trex Decking And Other Composites:

  • 1
    Remove everything 
    Grills, plants, furniture, outdoor toys, and all objects should be cleared off your deck before you begin. It’s also a good idea to take down awnings or umbrellas to make sure the deck gets even sunlight after it’s painted. This will shorten dry times and encourage your coats to dry uniformly. 
  • 2
    Clean the boards 
    While light dirt and grime can get by with some scrubbing, a power washer is ideal for cleaning your deck as thoroughly as possible. For moldy areas, apply a solution of vinegar and water. Let it dry completely before moving on to the next step. 
  • 3
    Sand the boards 
    Go with the direction of the grain and smooth out any rough patches. This also helps to remove any coating on your composite boards, which will affect paint adhesion and cause an uneven coat. After you’re done, sweep up and rinse the deck, then let it dry again. 
  • 4
    Prepare your materials 
    A good workstation is a tarp that can act as a drop cloth, but also easily slide with you as you work.  Open your primer, stir, and pour into a paint tray or your paint sprayer. Roll or spray your primer coat onto your boards.  
  • 5
    Work in a sensible direction 
    To avoid painting yourself into corners, start at the edge of the deck farthest from the door or stairs. As you complete a section, slide your materials with you until the entire deck is primed. Allow it to dry; consult the primer instructions for timelines, although this will usually take 2 to 4 hours. 
  • 6
    Apply your paint 
    Open, stir, and pour your exterior latex paint into a roller tray or sprayer, then apply your first coat. Work in the same pattern you did for the primer coat. 
  • 7
    Allow the first coat to dry completely 
    On warm, sunny days, this won’t take very long; some brands are ready to receive a second coat within an hour, but most will require 2 to 4 hours. 
  • 8
    Apply your second coat, if needed 
    This will allow you to cover any thin spots or areas you may have overlooked before. A third coat usually won’t be required but can be applied about 2 to 4 hours after the second coat (or the next day) if desired. 
  • 9
    Allow the deck to dry 
    You’ll want to wait 24 hours for light foot traffic and a week before placing furniture, plants, grills, and other items back where they belong. These are just guidelines, however; consult your paint’s instructions for exact dry times. 

How To Stain Trex Decking: Step-By-Step Guide 

Although painting a composite deck like Trex will outlast staining it by several years, opting to stain your boards can give a beautiful, classic look that still allows the design of your Trex decking to shine.  

Supplies You’ll Need:  

  • Cleaning materials (see previous section) 
  • Pressure washer 
  • Weatherproofing stain (consider a stain-sealer combination formula) 
  • Stain pad applicator, roller, or stain sprayer  

Steps To Stain Your Trex Decking

  • Remove everything
    This is especially important if you’re using a sprayer since stain particles could get on your furniture or plants. 
  • Clean the deck
    Remove all dirt, mold, and other grime from the boards with water, vinegar, brushes, and a power washer if needed. Let it dry completely. 
  • Gather your materials
    A tarp or cart will be handy when you need to move. You may want to wear a face-covering to avoid fumes and shoe coverings to keep your soles clean. 
  • Apply the stain
    If using a deck stain sprayer, you’ll pour the stain into the reservoir and spray it on your boards evenly from end to end. For pads or rollers, take care to apply pressure evenly as you progress from one end to the other. 
  • Allow your deck to dry
    It will be safe to lightly walk on within 4 to 6 hours but might take longer if it’s particularly humid. Consult the stain’s instructions for exact times. 

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How do you remove paint spills from Trex decking? 

Apply a concentrated cleaner and degreaser to the area. You want a product that’s strong enough to break down the paint but that won't harm your composite boards. A non-toxic and biodegradable cleaner is preferable since you’re working outdoors and will create runoff when you rinse the deck.  

 

Let the cleaner sit on the paint according to the package instructions, then scrub with a soft brush until all the paint is gone. Rinse, then repeat if necessary.  


How do you strip an old paint job off Trex boards? 

Removing paint from Trex decking and other composites is incredibly difficult. Anything that will eat through the paint will also degrade your Trex boards. A better solution would be to paint over the old color entirely.  


Can you pressure wash a Trex deck? 

It is not recommended by the manufacturer to pressure wash a Trex deck due to the possibility of damage and voiding your warranty. With that in mind, most composite decking can accept light, occasional power washing.  


How long does Trex decking last? 

If maintained properly, your Trex composite deck will last 20 years or more. Painting composites can extend their longevity up to another 10 years with each application, although your paint job will require touch-ups and maintenance of its own.  


Conclusion

Composite decking is incredibly popular due to its resistance against rot, mold, insect damage, and weather. Although it can last for decades, composite boards may experience fading due to sun exposure. Additionally, you might simply change your mind about its color. Painting or staining Trex and other composite decking can refresh your deck’s look and, in some cases, increase its durability even longer.   

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