How to Maintain Your Deck

How to Maintain Your Deck

Summer is coming and you are probably thinking of revamping your deck for those fun summer BBQs. Before you start doing work on your deck, there are some questions you should ask yourself and answer:

  • How old is the deck?
  • When was the last time the deck was wash or sealed?
  • Was the deck hand­scrubbed with a deck cleaner?
  • What product was used to seal or stain the deck?
  • What direction does the deck face in relation to the sun?
  • What is the deck made of, pressure treated or cedar wood?
  • Was a solid stain used on the deck?
  • Is there mold on the deck?

How old is the deck?

The age of the deck will determine whether you are use a clear or solid  product to seal your deck. If the deck is new (under five years old) use a clear or semi­transparent product. A clear or semi­transparent product allows the natural beauty of the wood  and the grain to stand out. If the deck is more than five years old and starting to show signs of aging  (like cracks and splinters), use a solid stain to try to hide these  imperfections. Don’t be in a hurry to try to colorize your deck (the term colorize means to use a solid ­color stain on your deck). Once you have applied a solid ­color stain to the deck, you can’t change it back if you don’t like it, so give it serious thought before you do.

When was the last time your deck was washed or sealed?

This information determines how difficult the job will be. If the deck is not on a regular maintenance schedule and has not been taken care of for a number of years you are going to have to use more  effort and materials to get the deck looking good again. Your outdoor deck needs to be maintained on a regular basis for year round enjoyment and to prolong its life. The whole secret of doing a great job on your deck is in the cleaning  process. The better you clean your deck, the better a fresh coat of stain or sealer  will take to the wood, and the better the finished results will look. So, take the extra time to do a good job when cleaning your deck!

deck cleaning

Was the deck hand scrub with a deck cleaner?

Hand-­scrubbing the deck is the only way to clean all the way to the  bottom of the pores of the wood. It takes effort and elbow grease. To do the job right, you have to use a  deck cleaner and follow up with power­washing. To get the best results possible you must hand-­scrub the deck so you can  get full penetration of the product into the pores of the wood.

What product was used to seal or stain the deck?

You will want to know what product was used to seal or stain the deck if possible. This will determine a number of things. If a solid color stain was used, and it was a dark color, if you try to use a  light­ colored stain to go over it, you will generally get a bleed­through. The dark will show ever so slightly through the lighter colored stain. It’s best to stick with the same brand of product that was use on the deck before. Some products adhere better when using the same brand, and  there is less chance of flaking or peeling from one year to the next.

sun deck

What direction does the deck face in relation to the sun?

If the orientation of the deck is south of southwest, you are going to have  a great deal of sun exposure year round. Sun exposure causes deck­ sealing products to degrade at a  higher rate. A solid ­color product will hold up better to sun exposure (last 2 to 3  times longer) than a semi­transparent product. The downside of using a solid ­color product on the south or southwest  side is you are creating a solar collector. A dark color on the south side will turn your deck into an Easy Bake Oven®.  Lesson one, don’t use a dark colored stain on a deck on the south side of your house. Also, you have to be careful when cleaning, sealing, or staining your deck in direct sunlight during the warmer months. There is a lot that can go wrong during these hot days. The deck cleaner can dry out too quickly (Solution: pre­soak the deck  before you start to make sure the deck cleaner doesn’t evaporate.) It’s even possible for the deck cleaner to burn into your the deck. The  solution is to work in the morning or late evening. Drying out or burning can also happen with deck stains if you are not  experience. If the deck is too hot and you don’t know what your doing  the stain will burn into the deck causing the color to be uneven.

What is the deck made of, pressure treated or cedar wood?

If the deck is made of pressure­-treated wood (which is the most common  construction material), you shouldn’t have too many problems. Pressure-­treated wood is harder than cedar. Pressure­-treated wood is more forgiving than cedar when power washing (when power washed by a professional) if you get too close to the wood. Pressure treated wood will accept more variations of products. Clear, semi-­transparent, semi­solid or solid. The wood is wettest when it is shipped from the supplier and needs time  to dry out. If the deck was built on the south or southwest side of the  house it will probably dry out faster, at least one month. No matter what wood you choose, it is important to start taking care of your deck as soon as you can. Think of it as an insurance policy on your investment. Cedar is a softwood and tends to need more maintenance. Additional care is needed when you clean cedar as there is a chance you  might damage the wood with the power washer. Damage can be prevented by hand-scrubbing the deck occasionally, using more elbow grease and less power washing. Using a smaller tip on  the power washing wand also helps (a 25 degree tip should be fine). Do your best to keep debris from getting between the deck floor boards. Leaves that are left between the boards will accumulate and retain  moisture and will cause the cedar to rot prematurely. Also it’s very important to use a product that’s made for cedar. If you  like the natural cedar look, you will want a semi­transparent product that  has a light pigmentation. The downside of using a semi­transparent stain is that it breaks down  quicker with sun exposure. If you want the natural look of cedar you will  have to take care of your deck more often. If you are considering a new cedar deck, make sure the builder uses stainless steel nails. This will prevent rust spots and tannin stains appear  in the wood. 3 things to think about before staining cedar with a solid color stain:  Why didn’t I just use pressure treated wood and stain that and save a ton  of money in the process. After the wood is covered with a solid stain, no  one will know the difference. No, you can’t sand cedar and have the appearance stay the same. If you  sand cedar, it will stick out like a sore thumb. So make sure sanding is what you want to do before you do it. No, you cannot use bleach on your cedar deck to clean it. I have seen this more than once. You are stripping the natural color from the wood.

Was a solid stain used on the deck?

Several things you should consider if your deck already has a solid:  Be sure the new stain will not bleed through the old stain, especially  when you are using a lighter color stain on top of a darker color stain. Try to do a test in a place where it won’t be noticed before you use the  new stain so that you are happy with the results. Most of the color pigment lies in the bottom of the stain container, so you should constantly stir the stain to get a consistent look when it’s applied  to the deck. If you are using several one­gallon containers of stain, try combining  them into one larger container so the color will stay consistent. Try not to use a dark color stain if the deck is located on the south or southwest side of your home. This will turn your deck into a solar  collector. Some solid stains do not dry well when the temperature is lower than  forty degrees, so try to work when the weather permits. Try not to work in direct sunlight on very hot days. High temperatures will cause the stain to burn into the grain of the wood. Change your work  schedule to morning or evening, when it’s cooler.

deck mold

Is there mold on the deck?

This problem usually  occurs on the north or east side of the house, where the deck doesn’t have  exposure to the sun. If your deck does have mold, you should take care of it as soon as possible. You can go to your local hardware or paint store and pick up  deck cleaner. Read the directions and follow them. The one thing you  should be careful of is wash all the deck cleaner off of the deck, when  you’re done. If your deck is made of cedar, you need to pay more attention to the  problem. Mold will eat into the soft cedar wood at a quicker rate. If you  have a cedar deck, act on the problem immediately. Just hose off the deck, remove any debris between the deck boards, and refasten any loose boards. There you go, a simple plan to take care of your deck. With a little effort, you will enjoy your deck for years to come.