Take the advice of a decking contractor from one of the wettest parts of the country: moisture is a cedar deck’s worst enemy, and there’s plenty of it during the fall and winter months. Even though you may not be out there enjoying daytime BBQs or evening gatherings, you need to get out on your deck for some regular maintenance. This is vital to keeping your cedar deck in great shape and ready for spring.
Use a scrub brush and water to rid your cedar deck of dirt and debris from within the wood fibers. In addition to preventing structural damage to your deck, cleaning it improves the ventilation between the boards so they stay drier.
Remove Leaves and Other Debris
Anything that touches your deck when it’s wet can leave a stain and encourage mold and mildew growth. Plus, leaves release tannins, astringent compounds, when they decompose. Tannins protect the leaves from bacteria, fire, and insects, but also leave stains. Protect your deck wood by regularly removing leaves and other debris.
Remove Deck Furniture
At the beginning of fall, remove potted plants and other items from your deck to avoid stains, rot, and mold and mildew growth from moisture trapped underneath. For larger pieces of furniture, shift them to a different place on the deck periodically and removed any trapped leaves.
Address Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew can lead to major damage if you don’t promptly take care of it. If you notice mold or mildew beneath your cedar deck, there may be too much moisture because of poor drainage or faulty grading. The addition of ventilation to the underside of your deck can help remedy the problem. Check with a professional to learn if you need to install a drainage system or re-grade the landscape.
Mold or mildew on the deck itself is generally a sign of neglect. If there isn’t any rot on the deck, use a bleach mixture to kill the mold or mildew. If that does not work, check with a contractor to learn about the type of mold removal product you should use. Sand down the deck and then coat it with an oil-based wood sealer to protect it from further damage. You should re-treat your deck every year.
Prevent and Remedy Dry Rot
Dry rot is a fungus that damages wood. It generally occurs when there is an excess of moisture. If the wood on your deck is darker in color, brittle, and falls apart easily, you may have dry rot. Prevent it by not allowing water to pool on or around your deck and by cleaning it regularly. If you have a small amount of dry rot, you may be able to remedy with a kit sold in hardware stores. Otherwise, you may need to replace the wood in the affected areas.
Reapply a Finish if Necessary
If your deck’s current finish is about five years old or starting to fade, it’s time to strip the wood and reapply the finish before winter arrives. Water-repelling seals are ideal for a cedar deck, especially if it rains or snows in your area during the cold months.
If you live in an area that experiences extreme fall or winter weather, it may be a good idea to cover your cedar deck with a tarp or deck cover. Check with a local deck contractor to see what he recommends. If you do use a cover, make sure that water doesn’t pool and that the cover completely covers the deck.
The Consequences of Cedar Deck Neglect
In addition to the previous negative consequences mentioned, a neglected deck can also experience insect infestations, compromises in structural integrity and other safety concerns, small amounts of damage that can become wide-spread, higher cleaning and maintenance costs, and reduced lifespan.
While there are things that are more fun to do during your free time than maintaining a cedar deck, the couple of hours you invest in the structure every so often offers a great return. Talk to a local deck contractor to learn more about the needs of your investment to keep it well-maintained for years to come.