It’s pretty obvious: This deck could use some help.
If your deck is in a similar state (or you want to ensure it never looks like this beauty), it’s time for some deck maintenance.
To keep your deck in top shape all year, regularly sweep off leaves, sticks, and other debris and clean areas such as cracks and corners where grime and silt tend to hide.
Each spring and fall, it pays to do a major cleaning. Hose debris off the deck and, while the deck is still wet, scrub the entire surface with cleaner and a stiff scrub brush or broom. You may choose to use a homemade cleaning solution (just remember that cleaner with bleach will lighten the wood’s natural hue) or a deck wash that chemically cleans the wood. Protect plants located near the deck by wetting them and covering them with clear plastic; protect yourself by wearing eye goggles and protective clothing. Once you’re finished cleaning, be sure to thoroughly rinse the deck.
If your deck is particularly dirty and you decide a pressure washer is necessary, take care not to strip away the soft grain of the wood. Avoid rotating tips, which spin at the nozzle and may tear up wood. It doesn’t hurt to hire a professional to handle pressure washing to ensure you don’t destroy your deck surface.
Once you’ve cleaned your deck, inspect it closely. Where necessary, sand splinters and repair damage.
Sun, rain, and foot traffic wreak havoc on a deck regardless of how often you clean it. For an extra level of protection, it may be time to refinish your deck. To determine whether you need to redo your sealer or stain, the pros at Lowe’s recommend sprinkling water on the wood. If the water beads up, your deck may not require sealing yet. If the water soaks in, it’s time to get to work.
Before you begin, make certain you select the right finish. The two main types are sealers (which are usually clear) and stains (which typically have some form of pigmentation). Oil-based finishes penetrate deeper into the wood, while water-based finishes are easier to clean up. To avoid sun damage, look for a penetrating deck finish that includes UV inhibitors.
It’s best to apply sealers and stains on a cool day. This leaves time for the finish to soak into the decking before the sun gets too harsh.
A Home Know-It-All Warning: Some people prefer to paint their decks rather than sealing or staining. My advice? Think twice before using paint. The deck above was painted rather than stained and it’s none the better for it. Many deck paints are specially formulated to withstand weather, but like any type of paint they’ll crack and peel, particularly with the stress of high traffic and harsh elements. Plus the maintenance required of a painted deck is much more than that required of one that is stained or sealed—you’ll have to scrape and repaint often. Besides, why would you want to cover up beautiful, natural wood grains when you can enhance them with clear sealers or stains? If you want color, opt for painting railings, overheads, built-ins, and other elements that aren’t subjected to so much wear and tear.
There’s plenty more you can learn about deck cleaning and maintenance too—just Ask the Builder.
The Home Know-It-All