Deck Care 101
Your deck is an extension of your home and living space, and like your home, it requires regular cleaning and upkeep to remain safe and comfortable. Composite and natural wood decks may have different requirements, but there are some basics for all decks. Here are some do’s and don’ts of deck care to keep in mind.
- Do give your deck a thorough annual cleaning. Your deck needs annual exfoliation to allow protective sealers to seep deeper into the wood of your deck. Choose a dry, moderately warm day to apply a material-appropriate deck-cleaning solution with a sprayer or roller. This will kill mold and bacteria that can speed the decay of your deck. A scrub brush can help the cleaner get into hard to reach spots and crevices to ensure that your whole deck is cleaned.
- Do cover surrounding plants before cleaning your deck. Cleaners and other chemicals can be hard on plants, so it is important to loosely cover them with plastic sheeting or tarps to prevent them from being sprayed. Avoid covering them too tightly, which might restrict air movement.
- Do sand your deck before applying sealer. After washing your deck, allow 48 hours for it to fully dry. Your next step will be to lightly sand your deck to remove splinters or damage due to pressure washing. A power sander may be too harsh, but 80-grit sandpaper should be enough. After your deck has been sanded, apply a sealer to prevent the wood from cracking, cupping, or warping. Tinted sealers and stains can wear down over time with traffic, but clear sealant will last longer.
- Do clean your deck regularly. In addition to your annual cleaning, you should keep your deck swept free of puddled water, leaves, branches, dirt, and other debris. In snowy areas, a plastic shovel can remove snow without damaging your deck.
- Do watch for damage. If your deck becomes damaged, it can become a significant safety hazard and lead to further damage. Inspect your deck regularly for soft or splintered spots, loose nails, boards, or railings, and split or rotten planks. Promptly repair damaged areas when discovered.
- Don’t rely on a power-washer. While this can be an effective and quick way to clean our deck, it can also cause damage. If you do use a pressure washer, keep the stream moving whenever the trigger is moving. A garden hose with a hard stream setting should provide enough pressure to clean your deck without damaging it.
- Don’t use chlorine bleach on your deck. This can damage the cellular structure of your wooden deck and strip it of color. It also can harm the plants growing around your deck. Oxygen bleach is a safer alternative, but it still isn’t appropriate for redwood decks.
- Don’t use paint to seal your deck. New paint can look polished and clean, but it will distress very rapidly. If your deck was painted and you are looking to use a different sealant, you will need to sand off all the paint before you can refinish your deck. Synthetic sealants can prevent mold and mildew while protecting from sun damage and water damage.
- Don’t assume pressure-treated wood decks are maintenance-free decks. While pressure-treated wood can resist rot and insect damage, it still required sealant and cleaning. Be sure to use products intended for pressure-treated wood when protecting your deck from sun and water damage.
- Don’t use natural material rugs on your deck. It is important to prevent your deck furniture from scratching the surface of your deck, but natural fiber rugs such as jute and bamboo can absorb moisture and encourage mildew. Look for rugs made from recycled plastics for an eco- and deck-friendly solution.
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