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DIY Gel Stain Deck Railing Makeover

DIY Gel Stain Deck Railing Makeover

With Spring in full bloom, it’s time to head outside and show the exterior of our homes some love. In this DIY tutorial, I am sharing a cheap and simple project- how to transform lackluster deck railing with black gel stain.

From bathroom vanities to exterior doors (even garage doors), gel stain is one of my favorite DIY hacks.

Providing better coverage than traditional stain and more durability than paint, it makes lazy b*tches like myself extremely happy. Don’t you just love shortcuts?!

And while I have had great experiences with gel stain in the past, I was a little apprehensive when I first decided to overhaul the wooden railing on my exterior stairs two summers ago…

deck makeover with gel stain on stair rail ideas

You see…

In a perfect world, I would have $70,000 at my disposal to completely overhaul the exterior of our fixer upper, but we’ve had so many surprise expenses emerge through our journey , that the outside of our home has gotten the short end of the stick.

Not only am I longing for new siding, but I would love to re-do our front elevation stairs with a more modern design.

I absolutely adore the modern look of black metal railing, particularly in a horizontal orientation. However, just to re-do the Trex steps alone (not even including any fancy railing) has been quoted anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000. In our city, labor is not easy to come by, and expenses can be quite outrageous!

If my husband didn’t work crazy long hours at his day job, I have no doubt we could do all of this ourselves. But given these stairs are extremely steep and tedious, I simply can’t be without a front entrance and/or exit for months on end (especially with little ones running around).

Nevertheless, I knew I had to do something to improve our home’s curb appeal.

So… I first started with just pressure washing the railing and the stairs…

how to gel stain deck and stair rails

It’s pretty amazing how much the pressure washing helped. But. ya’ll know I couldn’t just stop there.

Longing for the look of black metal railing, I did something “risky” and decided to gel stain the wood rails with black gel stain. Here is how I did it..

How to Gel Stain Wood Deck Railing:

how to gel stain deck wood and stair rails

*For your shopping convenience, I have included affiliate links. As an Amazon and RewardStyle Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  *

Materials Needed:

(Step 1). Before applying gel stain, make sure you are working with a clean surface. Pressure wash your surface and allow to dry for 24 to 48 hours.

(Step 2). Using painter’s tape, cover any areas that butts up against the railing (if you don’t want it stained). You can always use cleaning rags and mineral spirits if you do make a mess.

***For more visual instruction, watch this video tutorial I included**…

(Step 3). With a paint brush marked for “rough surfaces”, apply a thick coat of gel stain to your desired surface. It only took me one coat.

TIP: You want to check the forecast before beginning this project to make sure it will not be raining within 24-28 hours of your project!

This project cost me less than $40 and took me about 2-3 hours to complete!

But would it last? Could the black gel stain really hold up to the harsh sun and pouring rain?

My Gel Stain After Two Years:

gel stain on wood deck rails review

Well….for the first year, the black gel stain rails truly did resemble black metal (at least from the road).

However, I started noticing some fading near the end of the second summer.

That being said, at least the gel finish is fading evenly and not chipping (like what you would see with paint).

Come to think of it, the rails now look more like the trending, Japanese- derived Shou Sugi (burnt wood) technique. And I am totally ok with that vibe.

For such a small investment, I am pretty happy with how this project transformed our front elevation…

black gel stain on wood deck rails diy

You don’t have to drop tens of thousands of dollars to get the black modern railing look! With gel stain, you can do it for around $30. Just know, to keep the sleek finish, you will need to do a little maintenance.

Thank you guys so much for stopping by this week!

Now get out there and design some good vibes along with a fabulous life.

If you would like more posts on Gel Stain check out the following:

It would also mean the world to me if you could share this post with a friend or on social media. Thank you!

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how to gel stain wood deck rails black



My journey in interior design and home improvement began with transforming my first fixer-upper home, all while managing a budget and raising two young boys. My work, a reflection of my passion for creating beautiful, uplifting spaces, has been recognized by top publications like Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, HGTV, and more. I invite you to explore my site and witness the transformation of my home and the vibes we've designed.Read more...


Wednesday 21st of April 2021

The power of paint can never be underestimated, especially when it is bold and black. It makes quite a statement Erica!!

Designing Vibes

Wednesday 21st of April 2021

Thank you so much, Mary! I agree...paint is a powerful transformation tool!