5 Easy Steps to Winterize Your Deck

A snow-covered deck in a yard.

Winter weather is hard on surfaces, including car paint, lawn furniture, and even your deck. Whether you have a large space or a postage stamp perch, giving your deck a little TLC before the harsh weather sets in will help protect your investment. Here’s what you need to know.

Step 1 - Remove Everything From Your Deck

The BBQ should be moved to a covered location or at least stored with a cover on it. If you don’t have another place for your outdoor furniture, thoroughly wash it and make sure it's dry before returning it to the deck with a complete cover. Placing your furniture on blocks will help minimize rust and mildew spots on the deck. Planters can leave a ring on your deck and collect moisture during wet winters, so move all planters to a different location.

Step 2 - Clear the Surface of Debris

In addition to removing furniture and plants, make sure you’ve removed all debris from the wood such as leaves and dirt. Use a gentle pressure washer, sweep, and/or enlist the power of your leaf blower. Also remove plants or branches that hang over your deck, especially those that come into contact with the wood, such as climbing grapes or hops. A wintertime of contact will encourage discoloration and mildew.

Step 3 - Clean the Deck

A pink bucket and a broom on a dirty wood deck.

Once you’ve removed all of the loose debris, work on the stuck-on goodness from a season of barbequing and entertaining. Again, your pressure washer can help with this task, but be careful. Pressure washers can easily cause splintering and damage to your wood. Alternately, apply a wood cleaner and allow it to set briefly before giving it a light scrub. A push broom handle attached to a scrub brush works great for this purpose. Again, be cautious not to be too aggressive. The goal is not to peel away the protective stain or paint on the surface of your deck, but rather to gently remove mold, mildew, and dinner spills.

Step 4 - Make Repairs

Someone tightening screws in a wood deck.

Fall is a perfect time to inspect your deck and make repairs. Scan the surface for loose nails. Tighten any elevated deck screws. Replace rotting boards, along with those suffering from splitting, cracking, or warping. Also make sure banisters are secure and steps are level and stable. While you're at it, check the skirting of the deck to ensure there are no access holes for critters seeking a warm refuge. Plug small holes with steel wool to keep mice out. Cover larger spaces by replacing the wood with a more appropriate size.

Step 5 - Consider Additional Protection

Raw wood does not fare well in wet conditions, so it's important to make sure the surface of your deck is well protected. If it's been a few years since the last time you applied stain or paint, it’s probably time to do it again. A properly sealed deck should repel moisture, allowing the rain and water to bead up on the surface. If this isn’t happening on your deck, it’s time to offer a new layer of protection against the elements. After cleaning the surface and making repairs, use a sander to create a smooth finish on your boards. Also, ensure that the grime and gunk in the spaces between the boards is cleaned out. This is important for proper drainage, and proper drainage keeps water from pooling and warping boards. Once your space is prepped, apply stain or paint in thin layers by using a roller or paint pad. Ensure proper dry time between layers.

With a little bit of effort before the harsh weather hits, your deck will be much more tolerant of the winter ahead. This effort will also pay off in the spring when you're ready to uncover the furniture and once again fire up the grill.