No matter where you live, Spring is the perfect time of year for homeowners with decks to invest a little time in some preventive maintenance. Not only will it help prolong the life of your deck, but you’ll also save money on costly repairs later and enjoy your deck further into the seasons.
Exposure to the elements can impact decking and outdoor materials. It’s a minor investment of time to ensure the valuable square footage offered by a deck will continue adding to the value of your home. So here are some reminders from the California Redwood Association.
Restoring, Finishing and Maintaining
Start at a surface level by checking the integrity of your deck’s finish to determine if the existing deck finish is still intact or needs to be restored. One simple way to find out: pour a cup of water onto the deck surface; if the water doesn’t bead up, it’s time to restore the finish.
The first step in refinishing your deck is a thorough cleaning. The CRA recommends a solution of 1 cup TSP and 1 cup of household liquid bleach in a gallon of water. Other cleaners such as Simple Green and oxygen bleaches can also be successfully used. Scrub the solution with a long handled bristle brush and let it sit for 15 minutes or so before thoroughly rinsing with a garden hose. While powerwashing can be a valuable tool in the hands of a professional, homeowners should use with caution to avoid damaging the deck.
With the deck surface clean, take a walk around the surface and perform a visual inspection – look for loose nails that may have worked up from the surface over the past year, add oversize deck screws where needed, see if any boards could use sanding or replacement. Also spend a few minutes to inspect under the deck, looking for any decayed joists, ledgers or posts. Some woods, like redwood, have an abundance of natural strength and beauty that last for decades without warping or cracking. Taking time to inspect and address any potential issues early makes your deck last even longer.
A wood brightener should be applied to your deck surface next. An oxalic-based brightener will restore the color to the wood and will remove most common wood stains including tannin and rust stains. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s application instructions. Rinse the surface thoroughly after any chemicals are applied.
Now it is time to apply a high quality finish specifically formulated for wood decks. These are typically oil-based formulations that provide protection from moisture, sunlight and mildew. Avoid clear generic water seal type products. Apply using a brush and avoid applying in direct sunlight or when rain is forecast within the next couple of days. Follow all other manufacturer’s instructions which can be found printed right on the container.
Your deck is ready to enjoy again, but there are some simple maintenance steps you can follow year-round to keep your hard work working hard for you even longer. Here are a few fast tips for keeping your deck in shape that take just a few minutes of time every month:
- Keep the deck clean. Rinse it down every 30 days with clean water
- Keep excess water off the deck; adjust sprinklers away from the decking and install gutters along your house eaves if needed to keep water off decking
- Keep debris out of gaps between the deck boards. This causes decay
- Establish a regular deck maintenance schedule. Examine your deck structure closely every year, including the under structure
A properly maintained deck doesn’t take much time to keep it looking and feeling new, and can give you years of pleasure and enjoyment as well as add long-term value to your home. Taking care of your deck is something you’ll appreciate every time you pull up a chair to sit on it, share a meal with friends, or enjoy your time with family.