Nothing says summer like relaxing on your deck with a glass of sweet tea as the gentle evening breeze blows. (Are my Southern roots talking??) Discovering you need to replace said deck, however, will quickly destroy all thoughts of relaxation, especially when you find out that wood costs have skyrocketed! Don’t let your deck get to that point. Here are five steps to keep your deck looking good as new for years to come:
At least once a year – better if twice – do a thorough inspection of your deck. Look for any signs of obvious damage: loose boards and nails, rotten planks. Make sure railings and stairs have tight connections and do not wobble when you walk on them.
Fix Any Damage Immediately
Replace any raised or rusted nails with wood screws. Remove and replace any broken or rotten planks. Tighten any loose connections. Follow any repairs with a thorough cleaning.
Annual Deep Clean
Clear off any furniture and decorations. Sweep the deck clear of leaves and debris, being sure to remove anything caught in between each plank.
To clean the wood thoroughly, use an outdoor cleaner designed to remove mildew. Don’t use bleach, as it will damage the structure of the wood.
While a pressure washer may seem like a good idea, use with caution in order not to splinter the wood. A stiff bristle brush and a bucket of water will accomplish the same goal with less chance of damage to your deck. Rinse off really well with a garden hose.
Be careful not to allow standing water to remain on your deck. Sweep away any puddles of water or piles of snow. Also, be sure to clear away leaves and debris, so that mold and mildew do not start to grow underneath.
Sand, Seal, and Stain as Needed
If your deck needs a little help to look its best, try sanding, sealing, and/or staining it. Begin by sanding the deck with an orbital sander to smooth out any rough areas. Use 60 or 80 grit sandpaper. Be sure to wear safety goggles and a dust mask for protection while sanding. Once you are finished, sweep or vacuum the deck to remove all of the dust particles before sealing.
Sealing vs. Staining
Next, decide whether you want to seal or stain your deck. Sealing your deck will protect it from water damage and foot traffic. Staining will both protect your deck and help it look its best, bringing out the wood’s colors and textures. Before sealing or staining, check the weather. You want at least two or three days without moisture before you take on these projects.
Before sealing, make sure the deck is completely dried out. Apply a thin coat of sealer with a natural bristle brush to three or four boards at time. Allow to dry thoroughly. You may need to repeat with another coat, using a fine brush to reach difficult areas.
If you decide to stain, begin by matching the stain to the type of wood. Take a stained sample with you to the store and match it to a premixed stain. Stir the stain thoroughly before starting. Much like when you apply the sealant, work top-down. Start with the railings and move to the planks. Stain dries quickly, so avoid working in direct sunlight. Once finished, the stain needs to dry completely (at least 24 hours) before using the deck.
Once you’ve done all of this work to maintain your deck, you need to be sure to protect it as well. Use pads or outdoor rugs under furniture, tables, and grills/smokers. Be sure the pads and rugs are not made of natural materials, such as bamboo. These materials tend to scratch the wood and trap moisture underneath. Opt for plastic or recyclable materials instead.
Periodically rearrange anything that sits on your deck. This will prevent sunlight from permanently fading areas that aren’t covered.