Whether you are looking to sell your home, or just enjoy the outdoor surroundings of your home, maintaining your deck is a no brainer. Keeping your deck in good shape allows you to have years of enjoyment and raises the value of your home.
Here are some of the must-know deck maintenance do's and don't's.
No matter what kind of material your deck is, it requires maintenance and upkeep. Even the materials that are easier to care for still require a little TLC. The most common deck materials include:
- Pressure-treated lumber
- Composite decking
- Natural wood like redwood and cedar
- Tropical hardwoods
- Aluminum decking
- Vinyl decking
Most decks are typically pressure-treated lumber or composite and here is how to maintain them.
Must-do Tasks for Deck Maintenance
A deck is a part of your home where you relax or enjoy watching kids play in the backyard. It's where you entertain guests or have a cookout. Like any part of your home, there are maintenance needs to keep it safe to use and looking its best.
Spring or Annual Cleaning
An annual cleaning is a must for keeping your deck at its best. This is especially so for wood decks because they need a yearly exfoliation to allow the protective sealers to penetrate the wood deeper. It is best to do this during mild temperatures around 60 - 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a deck cleaning formula of your choice and use a brush to scrub the deck free of mold and mildew.
You can also use a sprayer but don't use anything too harsh like a pressure washer. This is because it can gouge or splinter the wood with the pressure being so strong.
For composite decking, there are special cleaners that work well for these deck materials. For oil or grease, use regular detergent or de-greaser. Vinyl decking is easily cleaned with mild soap and water.
Prepping the Deck
Prepping the deck is a must-do when preparing to seal or stain it. Even if you are just cleaning up well, these are things that should be done before getting started.
Sweep and remove all debris first. Get rid of any leaves, trash, or debris. Then make sure to sweep the deck well so that most of the dust and dirt is removed.
Make sure to check for loose screws or nails and replace as needed.
Look for signs of rot and make sure to check the deck panels for any rot or lose boards. Also, check the railing as well as the ledger.
Sanding and Sealing
If you plan to reseal your wood decking, make sure to sand the deck about two days (48 hours) after it is washed and dry. This takes away any fuzzy or splintery areas made by using a pressure washer. Don't use a power sander because that is simply too much power. Instead, 80-grit sandpaper with a pole sander is ideal. Then apply your sealant which is perfect to help prevent warping or cracking. Keep in mind that when choosing between a clear coat or a tinted sealer, the clear coat lasts longer. Don't forget to cover your plants and trees to protect them from any chemicals you plan to use.
Even though this article focuses on an annual cleaning, for the most part, it is crucial to do routine cleaning of your deck. Keep in mind that it is exposed to the elements all of the time. Water damage is possible when the water has pooled after a storm. Leaves and debris can cause damage and snow is another culprit. Clean all of this up as soon as you can after it happens. This keeps your deck in better shape throughout the year so you have less work to do on your yearly cleanup.
Things Not to Do When Maintaining a Deck
Don't Use Chlorine Bleach
Chlorine bleach strips away your natural wood of its color. Not only that, but it is harmful to your plants and foliage. You can use oxygen bleach but it is not a good alternative for use on redwood. Chlorine bleach works great for many household projects but for your deck, use something appropriate for its cleaning. It might cost a little more but it won't damage the colors or your greenery.
Don't Use a High-powered Pressure Washer
A pressure washer is ideal for saving time but if you are using it on your deck, do not go overboard. Make sure you are constantly moving the spray around so that it does not damage your wood. Use a sweeping motion and keep it going throughout the entire time you have your hand on the trigger.
For composite decking, it is recommended not to use a power washer at all since it can damage the material.
Don't Use Paint
Some people like to use paint as a sealant for their decks. This is not a good idea because while it may look great when it's first done, after a while it starts to look old and distressed. Another hassle is that if you do decide to reseal your deck, all of that paint has to be removed. Instead, use a synthetic sealant or a semi-transparent finish.
Choosing a Sealer or Stain
According to House Logic, sealers and stains are available at home improvement centers for about $30 per gallon -- enough to cover 250 square feet of decking. Your finish options include:
- Clear sealer that lets the wood’s natural grain and color show through
- Toner that adds a bit of color but fully reveals the grain and provides some protection against sunlight (ultraviolet or UV light)
- Semi-transparent stain that tints the wood, but lets some grain show
- Solid stain and opaque color that seal weathering damage and completely cover the grain
Get Your Deck in Shape
Keeping your deck in good shape simply takes regular maintenance. Yet, it's well worth it. It keeps your deck in good shape so that you have years of enjoyment and raises the value of your home.
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