The last days of Summer are here and can be great months to start preparing your deck for winter. Because the weather is typically dry during late summer and early fall, now is a good time to do some deck maintenance.
There’s nothing like a gathering of family and friends on a back-yard deck, but no matter what material your deck is constructed from, there’s always some regular maintenance that needs to take place in order to keep its appearance from degrading.
Wood decks are by far the most common type of decks on homes. Here in the Northwest, they are popular too, but with more cloudy and rainy weather than other parts of the country, the wood takes a little more care than other places.
- Inspect wood for cracks and debris – The first thing to do is to make sure there are no boards that are too far gone and may cause safety issues. If there are boards that need to be replaced, go ahead and do this now. You also want to make sure any nails are tapped back into place or screws re-tightened. Inspect seams between boards to ensure debris is removed as much as possible. This can lead to failure of sealants at a fast rate.
- Clean Deck Surface – To optimize the surface for applying your stain or sealants, you’ll need to get all the debris, mildew, and moss off as much as possible in order effectively apply treatments. It’s best to use a wood cleaner to help remove mildew and stains in the wood before you start hosing the deck off with water. The best wood cleaning products contain sodium hydroxide or oxalic acid, which generally are better for surrounding plants. As always, follow the directions exactly as they are from the manufacturer.Now for washing off the deck… if you have good water pressure where you live and the deck is fairly new, than using a hose with a powerful nozzle is fine. If not, then you’ll need a power washer. In either case, make sure the pressure is not too high, or you’ll end up with damaged wood. If you start seeing splinters or gouging, then you know the pressure is too high.
- Seal / Stain the Deck – After the deck has dried completely (usually a full 24 to 48 hours in low humidity), you can apply a water sealant directly to the wood (like Thompson’s WaterSeal). If the wood decking is getting older and starting to show its age with cracks and weather damage, you can use some great products that are especially made to seal older deck surfaces.
One of the reasons most folks choose a composite deck is because the maintenance is lower than wood and the composite material will last much longer. With a composite deck, you don’t need to worry about water proofing or staining, because the products are made with this all in mind. The only thing we recommend is to use a soft-brush attachment to your hose with a eco-friendly soap to clean dirt and debris off of the deck boards. If you see stains from old leaves or other debris, most manufactures recommend using oxalic acid to remove the stains.
Concrete / Stone Paver Decks
Probably one of the most durable & low maintenance decks you can have, a concrete or stone paver deck surface can provide a lifetime of enjoyment. However, like anything else here in the Pacific Northwest, moss and mildew will grow on it if it stays still long enough. Therefore, it’s a good idea to pressure wash the deck each year and apply a coat of concrete or stone waterproofing treatment. This will keep any small cracks and/or imperfections from being exploited by moisture and freezing temperatures. In fact, this is the biggest vulnerability of concrete. Once moisture gets into a crack in concrete and freezes, the expansion of the water will crack just about anything. Hence, why it’s important to keep your investment protected from the harshness of our winter months.
As with composite decks, if you have stains from debris, you can use oxalic acid to help restore the paver surface. Of course, you’ll want to do this before you apply any sealant.