A deck is subject to the harsh changes of the seasons. Snow and ice, rain and heat—they all have an effect on your deck’s sustainability. However, annual preventive and restoration methods help keep your deck in tiptop shape. Each season has specific procedures, found here. Taking care of a deck is important. A deck can recoup more than 70 percent of its original cost.
Step 1 – A Good Wash
The first step in taking care of a deck is keeping it clean. Sweep away dead leaves, dirt, dust, and general outdoor debris. Also, keep an eye out for mold and grunge. Spots of mold and grunge can lead to rotting by trapping water. Mold and grunge is the first sign it is time for a wash.
Clear the top deck boards, most visible to the homeowner, of debris. For those cracks in the boards, use a putty knife to clean tight spaces. Cross-joints are a typical area for debris to collect, so be sure to check these spots.
The cleaning materials vary for each type of deck. For wood decks, a homemade mixture of half bleach and half water does the job. Or, if you prefer, purchase professional-grade wood cleaner from a hardware store.
Cleaning isn’t restricted to the top deck boards, however. Once you have cleaned the surface of the deck, check the rails. The best practice is to move from the bottom up, applying the cleaner to the railing. Avoid splashing the cleaner back down onto the already cleaned surface to prevent double-bleached, spotty stains.
When it comes to composite decks, a professional-grade cleaner is recommended. Avoid using a power washer on these decks, as power washers will cause serious damage and void your warranty. Instead, use a soft brush. For those pesky rust and leaf stains that seem impossible to remove, use a solution containing oxalic acid. Remove other stains, such as grease and oil, with a commercial degreaser or detergent. These stain removers will also help brighten your deck. Apply the cleaner twice annually to prevent mold and mildew buildup.
For those with vinyl decks, widely considered the closest thing to a maintenance-free deck, use warm water and soap. This solution keeps your deck clean and shiny. It removes mold, mildew and dirt.
Step 2 – Seal the Deck
The weather can have a harsh impact on your deck. As Kentuckians know, the weather here changes on a dime. Rain, ice, snow and the winter elements can all leave your deck desperate for a new coat of sealant each spring.
Each spring/early summer, apply “the water test.” Splash some water on your deck to see if it beads up. If it does, your deck is in good condition. If not, it is time for more sealant. Complete step one—washing the deck—before applying the sealant. Allow for two days, or 48 hours, between washing the deck and applying the sealant. This provides the deck ample time to dry.
Stains and sealers are typically available at the local hardware store for roughly $30/gallon. To decide which color or style of sealant to use, first determine your desires for the deck. A clear sealant will allow the wood’s true color to show. A toner will add some color but also provide protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. If you are looking for a stain to color the wood, a semi-transparent stain does the job while also allowing some of the wood’s true grain to appear. Solid stain provides the best weather protection, but does not allow any of the wood’s true color to show.
Refinish sealants and stains annually. Wear appropriate protection, such as gloves and glasses, when applying the sealants and stains. Use a roller to cover the surface area, or floorboards, of the deck. For the smaller spaces, such as railings, use a brush.
Keeping your deck clean and stained extends the life and sustainability of your deck. Follow these easy steps to get the most from your deck investment.