Check Out the Deck
Thinking about kicking back and enjoying some nice quiet time on the deck? Maybe doing a little grilling, inviting friends and family over? If so, think about doing a yearly maintenance check on that deck first. For many, the deck is one of the largest investments made on the exterior of a home. It pays to give it a thorough review once a year to keep it in good shape, serving you and your family for many years to come.
Here’s a checklist to use when reviewing your deck:
1. Check for surface damage. Look for signs of stress, like excessive curling, cracking, or rotting in the boards that make up the surface of your deck. Replace any questionable planks with new wood that matches the existing deck. Inspect all the nails, screws and/or bolts that hold your deck together. Tighten screws that have worked loose and redrive any nails that are not slightly lower than the surface.
2. Check for structural damage. Not often do we have occasion to look at the underside of the deck. Take time to do so, using a high-powered flashlight. Look for any signs of animal or insect damage, such as chewed wood, holes or brittle areas. If you find any signs of insects or insect damage, you may want to schedule a visit from a pest-control expert. If the damage appears to be animal-related, consider adding lattice or some type of barrier around the edges to keep critters out.
3. Clean the deck. Dirt, algae, moss and smog can discolor a deck and keep sealers from working effectively. Even newly built decks should be cleaned prior to treatment to remove mill glaze or excess wax, which will affect a sealer’s ability to penetrate the wood. Use a reformulated deck cleaner or oxygen bleach (now popularized under many brand names) and a stiff brush to scrub the surface (according to the manufacture’s directions). Be sure to loosen any debris that has built up between the planks. You may need to consider using a power washer for more difficult stains. Let the washed deck dry for 24 hours before applying a sealer.
If you used colored stain on your deck in the past, you may need to strip any deteriorating areas. Look for a special deck stain and finish remover to do the job quickly and safely.
4. Seal the deck. No finish, even pressure-treated wood, is weatherproof. No sealer lasts a lifetime either. Until recently, experts recommended sealing decks yearly. With advances in finishes, treatment time now varies; check the manufacturer’s instructions.
A simple test would be to check the deck after a short or moderate rainfall – or pour a half-cup of water on slowly. If water is beading and puddling on the surface, the deck is sealed. If the water is absorbed quickly, it’s time to re-seal.
There are many brands and types of deck finish; none is perfect for all situations. Their success lies not in the type of ingredients – or the price – but in how well they penetrate the wood. The more they soak into the wood, the longer the finish will last. Be sure, however, to get a sealer with ultraviolet protection, since sun can be your deck’s worst enemy.