Homeowner may have waited too long to apply the first coat of semitransparent stain.

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Q: Eight seasons ago, I had a cedar deck built on the back of the house. I went with cedar because I was told that its life expectancy was greater than pressure-treated pine.

The deck was built in April and allowed to cure and dry for a year, as directed by the builder, before staining.

The following spring, I had the deck painted with a semitransparent stain — it allows the grain to show but looks like paint. Several months later, the paint began to peel. Large flakes were lifting off the wood. I contacted the painter, who came back the next spring and repainted at no charge.

The new paint job lasted two summers, then began to peel again. Since it was only the decking, I repainted.

Again, it lasted two summers before peeling. I contacted another painter who stripped the deck, applied a primer, and repainted. While stripping, he began to uncover soft spots and rot areas in the rails, benches and steps.

Now after eight seasons, the deck is peeling again, and large areas are totally rotted. The benches cannot safely be sat on. The stairs are hazardous, and entire sections of railing and planking are rotted through.

The builder is no longer in business. Next summer, I intend to tear the deck down and install composite.

Any ideas on what may have caused the cedar to rot so quickly? What about the multiple paint jobs? Is it all related?

A: You might have waited too long to apply the first coat of semitransparent stain.

Cabot, which manufactures deck stain and sealers, recommends just two to three weeks rather than an entire year, based on recent testing by the American Forest Products Laboratory.

The passage recommends “coating your new cedar decking as soon as you see water soak directly into the wood.” While you were waiting out the year, did you clean the deck? It would have required a thorough washing before the stain was applied to get rid of mildew that would have affected the application.

Surface preparation is always the key to the quality of a paint job.

Did you stain the deck at least three days after the last rain? If you chose to stain the deck on a day when the humidity was excessive, it might not have adhered properly.

The experts seem to be recommending oil-based rather than water-based stain.

The bottom line, from what I’ve read, is that the first application is the one that determines how effective the subsequent ones are, and there’s where the problem lies.

It is probably best that you have decided to build a new deck.

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WASHING INSTRUCTIONS:

Kimberly Nies, home economist for LG Electronics, offers these tips on how to treat all types of summer stains:

Quick stain removal: Pretreat the stain, then use a steam washer or dryer to finish the job. Steam particles are smaller, hotter, and provide a more intense cleaning than water particles. Plus, they are gentler on clothing.

Grease and oil: Soak in cold water and rub fabric against itself to dislodge the stain. If stains are old, scrape off crusted material and add detergent to the cold-water soak. Launder in warm water with detergent.

Colorful liquids and sauces: For fresh stains, wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric with your favorite detergent. For older stains, use detergent with bleach or bleach alternative.

Waxy substances: Stains from candle wax, chewing gum, crayon and lipstick have two components: oil/wax and dye/pigment. Tackle these types of stains by removing the oily portion first and then the dye portion. Waxy stains should first be scraped and treated with a dry-cleaning solution, then rubbed with detergent and scrubbed under hot water. Other combo stains should first be rubbed with detergent, then washed in the hottest water possible with detergent with bleach or bleach alternative.

Dry clean only: Always check the care label first. If the item is dry clean only, blot the excess stain and take to the cleaners within 24 to 48 hours.

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(Questions? Email Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write to him at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.)