Is your deck showing signs of age? Here’s how to extend the life of your exterior wood.
By Stacy Durr Albert
Remember how beautiful your deck looked when you first moved into your home? Chances are, water, weather and time have all impacted your exterior wood surfaces. The good news is that you can restore your deck to its original beauty with a little bit of elbow grease and regular maintenance. By following a few guidelines, you can extend the life of your outdoor wood and keep it looking picture-perfect all year long.
A Clean Sweep
Simply sweeping off your deck weekly is one of the best things you can do to help prolong its life. Pine needles, leaves, and other debris collect moisture, and they can quickly lead to rot if not removed regularly. Sweep on sunny days and be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies to prevent mildew buildup. You should also shovel or rake off debris after snowstorms or rainstorms.
Be sure to inspect your deck periodically to look for splintered wood, loose nails, rotten planks, and more. Make repairs as needed. One quick fix for weathered boards is to take them up, flip them, and reinstall-this may help you double your deck’s life span. Also check to see if water is pooling anywhere and adjust the angle of joints and beams to improve drainage. Finally, don’t overlook insect damage; you can scrape off old wasps’ nests (if empty!) and use wood putty to repair holes or gauges.
It’s a Wash
Get rid of grime each year with a cleaning solution formulated especially for decks. While there are countless options on the market, avoid a heavy bleach based cleaner unless your deck has significant mildew or staining (over bleaching can damage wood). A pump sprayer works well to apply the cleaner; a scrub brush with natural bristles can help you tackle tougher stain areas. You can keep stains to a minimum by hosing down your deck regularly throughout the year. If you opt to power wash, do so with caution-a low to medium setting will help prevent wood damage. Lightly sand the surface of your deck afterwards to smooth out splintery patches.
Seal the Deal
Once your deck is completely clean and dry, it’s time to protect it. Clear penetrating wood finishes, known as sealers, contain a water repellent plus a mildew-prevention additive. They are popular, but they generally need to be reapplied yearly.
A semi-transparent stain offers more protection from UV rays than a clear finish, and you may get three years or more out of it. A general rule of thumb is that more pigment equals more protection, so solid stains offer an even greater shield. There are many combination sealer-stains on the market today that may fit the bill-one-coat applications are a big hit with homeowners.
WeatherSeal™ is a good finishing choice since its thicker consistency offers more protection per brush stroke. Keep in mind that the longevity of any stain is also dependent on a deck’s geographic location, daily exposure to sun, usage, and other factors.
When choosing finishes for other exterior wood surfaces, keep in mind that the deck floor requires the most maintenance since it has so much daily foot traffic. Thus, you might choose a semi-solid deck stain for your deck floor, but something different for the less-abused handrails. Contrasting hues can make a dramatic style statement, and infinite options are available.
If your deck feels rickety, poor fasteners may be to blame. Low-quality screws can discolor and corrode your deck, shortening its lifespan. Go for stainless steel screws, or coated screws that are designed for pressure-treated wood. Loose connections can collect debris that stays wet, ultimately causing rot. If your deck wobbles or creaks, try to get underneath it and tighten up the nuts and bolts. When you take the time to address details like these, you’ll be rewarded with a deck that looks as good as new.