Wood Decks add an element of style and livability to your outdoor space. However, over time natural elements such as sun, rain, and snow will make your deck appear to be worn and old. With proper deck maintenance and repair, you can enjoy years of outdoor entertainment, relaxation, and beauty. Because decks are exposed to the elements all year round, it’s a good idea to establish a routine of upkeep that’ll protect your deck and prevent expensive repairs.
Here’s a simple maintenance schedule to help keep your deck safe, sound, and looking great.
1. Inspect You should inspect your deck every year for loose or rotting boards, protruding nails, fading do to sun exposure, water damage, and damage from insects.
Clear the deck of any furniture or toys and cover all fragile plants, air conditioners, and other items that need protection. Next, sweep the deck to remove larger debris. Finally, fix nail pops, remove and replace any damaged or rotting boards. Sanding with an orbital floor sander may be necessary to remove prior finish and prepare the boards for new stain or paint. Hand sanding or a molded sanding sponge can also work well.
Before you can apply stain or sealant, you must thoroughly clean the deck of all dirt and build-up. Any fine particles on the surface of the deck and debris clogging the spaces between deck boards should be removed with a powerful nozzle on a garden hose or a power washer. Many homeowners can get a little zealous with this process and cause further damage, so, if you are going to do this step yourself please take precaution. You may need to use a product to assist with discoloration or mildew. Products with a base of non-chlorine bleach base or oxalic acid are used to eliminate discoloration and stains. Bleach-based products eliminate mildew, while acid-based materials handle graying and stains. But, be aware that bleach used to kill mildew can also leave a surface drab. For these problems, an acid-based deck restoration product should be used. If you choose to do this process yourself be sure to read the cleaning solution directions and warnings thoroughly. The solutions can usually be brushed onto the deck using a broom or it can be sprayed on with a power washer under low pressure. In general, the more powerful the chemical, the less scrubbing will be necessary. After waiting the directed length of time for the chemicals to do their work, thoroughly rinse the deck, and allow to dry before applying stain or sealer.
4. Paint or Stain
Though some people choose to paint their decks with deck paint, most take advantage of the natural beauty of wood’s appearance by using a clear or lightly stained finish for their deck. If you do choose to paint, use a stain-blocking oil or alkyd primer first. The best finishes are those that soak into the wood, not those that provide a surface film. A finish, such as paint, that simply coats the boards tend to chip and flake especially in high traffic areas. A heavily pigmented, solid stain isn’t really recommended for decking because it shows wear patterns.
Sealers and stains are either water-based or oil-based. Water-based products offer easier cleanup and less odor; oil-based products tend to penetrate deeper for longer-lasting stain.
There are four main options for deck stains: clear, toner, semi-transparent and solid / opaque. As a general rule, older and more weathered wood requires a solid or opaque stain to cover imperfections. Color and tint options vary according to product, so refer to your product’s specifications for more detail. However, the general color / tint options are:
- Clear finish provides basic protection and allows the wood to turn gray naturally, without splitting, warping, cupping or cracking.
- Wood toners are similar to clear water repellant, but with a hint of color to maintain or restore the natural beauty of wood. They provide similar levels of protection against splitting, warping, cupping and cracking.
- Semi-transparent stains are subtle and show the grain and texture of wood. These stains contain pigment that protects against sun damage better than a clear finish. Oil-based semi-transparent stains provide the most protection, have better color retention and longer life.
- Solid / opaque color stain provides a rich color while showing the texture of the wood.
Most sealers provide waterproofing and sealing protection. The best sealers penetrate the wood deeply to provide the most protection. An oil-based product mixed with latex will offer easy cleanup.
Once the area is dry, you must seal the deck. Sealant can be brushed on, rolled on with a paint roller, or sprayed.
Sealants come in either water- or oil-based formulas. Some sealants contain stain to tint the color of the deck. Sealants with stains don’t always deliver a uniform color across the wood, so try it first in an out-of-the-way spot to make sure the results match your expectations. A good quality sealant will also contain ultraviolet sunlight protection to reduce the damaging effects of the sun. There are three important characteristics to look for in a finish:
- The finish should be water repellent or waterproof, not just “water resistant.”
- The finish should offer ultraviolet (UV) protection.
- If mildew is a potential problem, the finish should contain a mildewcide, which a wood preservative does.
As a general note. If you install a sealer, use the same sealer again in the future. If you switch sealers several years later, the earlier sealant might seal out the newest sealant installed and cause premature failure.
If you have any questions or concerns about your deck contact us by phone or email and we would be happy to give you a free estimate or answer any questions you may have.