Hey DIY team! If, like so many of us, you’re wondering about getting ready for warmer weather, now is an excellent time for deck maintenance. These steps will help you keep your deck healthy, safe, and usable for years to come.
First Things First
With any luck, the snow has melted. Your first task is to remove any items that have collected over the winter.
- Put away your shovel (unless you think it will bring about another Snowmageddon).
- Cover any shrubbery around your deck, so it doesn’t collect debris or get damaged by chemicals.
- Move your planters and grill.
Oh, and bust out your knee pads because you’ll want to get in between the deck boards and remove debris there, too. A putty knife is what you need. Some folks create an extended handle with PVC pipe to reduce strain on their back and knees.
After sweeping your deck, cleaning it will do wonders for the look and health of your deck. Choose a gray day, so the sun doesn’t evaporate your cleanser as you go.
Some cleansers require your deck to be wet first, others don’t. So be sure to read your directions to ensure your desired outcome.
Safety first! You’ll need a safety mask, gloves, and eye protection.
A power washer is great here if you know how to use one. If this is your first time with a power washer, do a little research first or watch a few DIY videos to prevent you from gouging or damaging your deck by leaving track marks in the wood.
Then give your deck 48 hours (2 days) to dry.
Avoiding Damage And Injury
Early detection and repair are better done now than when your deck is in full summer swing.
- Rot: Now that you see everything in a new light, it’s time to check for and repair any rot you see. Using a flat-blade screwdriver, start probing stairs, stringers, and posts. If your screwdriver can push in a quarter-inch or more, you might have rot.
Small areas (think around the size of a silver dollar) can be excavated with a chisel then treated with a wood preservative. In contrast, more extensive areas or structural pieces may need replacing.
- Under Your Deck: There’s more to see than meets the eye. So don’t forget to grab your flashlight and check underneath your deck too.
Unseen rot and other damage is the cause of 90% of deck collapses. Keep an eye out for severe rust on joints or any other hardware and look for holes in the wood, too.
This area is the foundation of your deck, so don’t be shy about replacing anything about which you feel doubtful. Call a professional if you’re stumped on how to proceed.
- Nails, Screws, and Splinters: Ouch! Splinters are bad enough, but a nail or screw sticking up even a little bit can cause painful injury. Pound those down instead of trying to remove them to reduce damage to your deck.
If you DO choose to pull them out, use a small piece of wood for better leverage and a buffer to avoid leaving dings in your wood.
- Railings: Give them a good wiggle and proceed with any needed repairs or maintenance.
The Right Stuff
Sure, chlorine kills all kinds of nasties, but it’s not suitable for your wooden deck. Nor is bleach, especially for redwood. Both of these products will strip your wood of its natural color and can do other damage as well.
Choosing the right cleaner designed for your deck and using it properly will do wonders.
Sanding Your Deck
- Find a 2-day moderately-warm window for this work. Your ideal temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees.
- A new deck should be disinfected first to remove mildew from the pores in the wood along with any surface gunk that will keep the sealant from penetrating the wood.
- No need to reach for your power sander, it’s a bit too harsh for this project. A pole sander with 80-grit sandpaper will be just fine to remove any fuzziness left behind from washing and do away with any splinters, too.
Seal The Deal
If you haven’t sealed your deck for a couple of years, now’s the time. There’s a handful of varying sealants ranging from transparent to stained and tinted, so keep your desired result in mind here.
Clear sealers need reapplying annually, whereas stain and toned finishes can be applied every couple of years. An oil-based stain is likely to last longer and give you more protection against fading.
DON’T USE PAINT AS A SEALANT! You’ll regret it if you do. It’s a quick fix with troublesome outcomes, including extra stripping and sanding, and the potential for starting all over again when it starts to peel.
Unlike other areas of your home, your deck is exposed to the elements 365 days a year. You can reduce damage by sweeping more often and removing any pooled water or damp leaves.
- Planters: Are your planters sitting directly on your deck? If so, they can create dirt build-up and water damage to your deck. Place those atop some cement blocks or some other decorative element to your liking.
- Grill: Do you have a grease catcher for your grill? If not, invest in a good one. Grease stains are some of the most difficult to remove from your deck.
- Furniture: Move your deck furniture around to avoid discoloration.
- Debris: Continually remove debris that gathers in the corners of your deck.
There’s Always Next Year
Well? Maybe Spring came early for you, or you weren’t in the mood to get down ‘n dirty. But don’t put needed maintenance off for another year either.
Fall is an acceptable time to maintain your deck. Keep that temperature window in mind to stay within 60-70 degrees and give yourself two days.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your deck year-round for a long time.