Decks are home additions that come with endless benefits, from a place to soak up the sun at home to hosting barbecues and enjoying a peaceful cup of coffee in the morning. But, in order to keep your deck in tip-top shape, there are some maintenance tips you should follow. Keep reading to learn more.
Inspect Your Deck Annually
Before you can start on any maintenance or repairs, you need to find out what underlying issues there are with your deck. Do this by an annual inspection. Here’s what to check for:
- Inspect the ledger: Use a flashlight to check the underside of your deck. You will want to pay attention to the metal flashing that attaches the deck to your house. Look for any signs of water damage, standing water, and/or deterioration.
- Check all joists, posts, and beams: Next, check your deck’s structural parts. Look for any signs of rotting on the posts and joists. Inspect the hardware and make a note of any components that are seriously rusted and need to be replaced.
- Search for cracks, rotting boards, and protruding nails: As you walk around your deck, listen for any squats. Feel for soft spots and sagging areas, and take note of any cracks and loose nails so you can make repairs.
- Examine the railing and stairs: Shake your railing to make sure the posts are not damaged or loose. Check for any cracks that may have developed around screws or nails.
- Check for signs of rot: Study the deck’s structural boards using a flat-blade screwdriver. Check the stairs, particularly where the stingers (saw-tooth notched pieces that support the steps) meet the ground. Next, check every perimeter post. If you can push the screwdriver more than 1/4 inch into a spot, it likely is rotting.
Clean Your Deck Thoroughly Every Year
Getting ready to embark on spring cleaning projects? Don’t forget your deck! Just make sure it’s a dry day and at least 60 degrees outside. Then, apply a deck cleaning solution with a sprayer or roller to kill any lingering mold and bacteria. Next, use a utility brush to scrub your deck’s dirtiest areas where mold and mildew are likely lurking. A power or pressure washer is the quickest way to clean your deck, but you have to be very careful with a pressure washer so that you don’t damage your deck. You may want to call in the professionals for your annual deck power washing to ensure your deck doesn’t get damaged in the cleaning process. If you want to take on the project yourself, just make sure you sweep the nozzle along the wood grain about eight inches from the surface of the deck. Make sure you move the nozzle at all times when engaging the trigger.
Before you start, you will want to make sure all of your plants and shrubs are covered because the chemicals in the cleaning solution can harm or kill them.
Seal the Deck
After the washing is complete, allow 48 hours for your deck to dry completely. Then, lightly sand the deck to get rid of splintery or fuzzy patches caused by the power washer. Next, seal your deck to protect it from cracking, cupping, or warping. A clear sealant will last the longest, while a tinted stain sealant will fade quicker with more foot traffic.
Inspect Your Deck Regularly
You will want to periodically inspect your deck for any soft or splintered spots, loose nails, and split or rotting planks. If you notice any problems, fix them ASAP to prevent health and safety hazards. Complete all annual repairs before your annual deck cleaning.
Top Deck Damage Culprits
The top causes of deck wear and tear may vary depending on where you live, but the top three culprits are:
- Water: Moisture causes decks to expand and contract when they are dry. This is why boards get cracked and split, nails pop, and the DCI rots. The good news is, this damage can be prevented pretty easily. Make sure you sweep your deck, clear away puddles after heavy rains and remove dirt and leaves.
- Sun: The power of UV rays breaks down the bonds between the wood cells. This lightens your deck’s color and weakens the structure. Since the sun only affects the wood’s structure, the best course of maintenance to prevent sun damage is a strong coat of sealant or stain.
- Bugs: The best way to prevent buts from destroying your wood is to trim all trees and shrubs in your yard away from your deck. Also, remove standing water and make sure your deck is properly sealed. You can also use yellow bug lights around the deck to keep the bests at bay.
Winterize Your Deck
The next item on your annual deck maintenance list will happen long after spring cleaning, in the late fall. It’s important that you prepare your deck to survive the harsh winter weather in order to keep it healthy for the next season. One way to protect your deck from snow and ice is to lay down a tarp before the first snow. This helps create a barrier that will prevent warping and moisture buildup. If you choose to forgo the tarp, just make sure you shovel your deck to clear off built-up snow.
Avoid using salt or ice melting products on your wood deck because they can damage the finish, wood and make the deck appear discolored. If you absolutely must use salt or ice melt for safety reasons, look for one that is calcium chloride-based as these are safe for wood, pets, and the environment.
Proper deck maintenance is vital so that you and your family can continue making memories on your deck for years to come. Follow our guide to keep your deck spick, span, healthy, and functional and prolong its lifespan.