The addition of a deck is one of the most popular home improvement projects. A well-designed, well-built deck not only expands the outdoor living space of your home but increases the property value as well. Whether you choose wood or composite decking, the truth is both require some form of general maintenance to ensure a long lasting, safe, sound structure. Decks take the most abuse of any surface around the home. From heavy foot traffic to year-round sun, rain and snow, they must be maintained, protected and able to withstand constant harsh elements and abuse.
When we started our DIY party deck project a few years ago, we knew we definitely wanted to build using wood. In addition to the natural beauty, high quality lumber has proven to stand the test of time. However, along with the all of the benefits, we knew this decision would entail some ongoing care. Over the years keeping the lumber in good shape and protecting it yearly has become a top priority.
Maintaining a deck is necessary if you want to keep it looking good and performing well. Even if your deck is just a few years old, it’s a good idea to start a routine now to increase its lifespan and function.
- Inspect the entire structure paying special attention to areas near the ground or water sources, like downspouts, planters and fasteners. These areas tend to remain damp and can trap moisture in the wood causing rot.
- Inspect the surface of the deck boards for excessive cracks, splintering, warping or decay.
- Check any decaying areas with a flat screw driver or ice pick. If the tip penetrates the wood more than a 1/4 inch, or the wood is spongy and soft, rot and decay may be present.
- Check for small holes, especially under rail caps, which may indicate an insect or pest problem.
- Inspect deckboards, joists, support posts and beams. Also check the ledger board, flashing & hardware for rust or boards that may have become loose over time.
- Check railings & stairs for any damage or looseness.
- If the deck boards were nailed, check for popped or protruding nails and consider replacing them with deck screws.
- Perform a water test by pouring a glass of water on the deck surface. If the water beads up the deck is still protected, however, if the water soaks in it’s time to wash and re-stain.
- Sweep the deck thoroughly.
- Remove dirt and debris stuck between the deck boards with a putty knife.
- Plan to clean the deck on a cloudy day when the wood is cool and the sun will not evaporate the cleaner.
- Wash the deck with a mild detergent or deck wash. Use a commercial degreaser for oil or grease stains and a brightener containing oxalic acid for rust and leaf stains.
- Use a garden sprayer to apply the cleaner, according to the manufactures recommendations, and scrub in with a stiff brush. Thoroughly rinse the deck with a garden hose or presser washer, set on a low setting.
- Allow to the deck to dry for 48 hours prior to sealing. A moisture meter can also be used to test the dryness of the wood.
Sealing & Staining:
Sealing the wood preserves the life of the deck and prevents splintering and discoloration.
Use 80 grit sand paper to remove any furriness on the wood from washing. Choose a deck sealer or stain. Sealers are colorless and let the natural wood color and grain shine. Sealers protect the wood from the elements, but they provide very little protection, if any, from UV rays.
Stains are available in many different colors and the darker the color, the better the UV protection will be.
- Clear – lets the wood’s natural grain and color show through.
- Toner – Adds a touch of color to enhance the natural wood.
- Semi Transparent – Lets some wood grain show through but tints the wood.
- Solid Stain – Completely covers the grain and covers weathered and damaged wood.
Sealer and toners need to be reapplied every year – twice a year in harsh elements, while solid stains can last a bit longer and be reapplied every other year.
Apply the sealer or stain according to the manufactures recommendations. Use a Stain Applicator or roller on horizontal surfaces and a brush or small rollers on railings and vertical surfaces.
Our outdoor party deck has been a four year long DIY project that has enhanced our home and created a beautiful stage for outdoor living and activities. While a wood deck does require a little extra care, establishing an ongoing maintenance routine will keep it safe, sound and looking great for years to come.