Get You Deck Ready For Outdoor Living
Besides making outdoor cooking and lounging more pleasant, a well-maintained deck is important to the appearance of your yard, and will last for years and years
Most people think that water is a deck’s biggest enemy. Although it is by no means a friend to decking material, it’s the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun that is the major cause of damage. Prolonged exposure to either or both of these elements can be devastating to a deck.
Deck boards that remain wet over time will breed fungus and result in rot that will ultimately require them to be replaced. Damp lumber also results in cupping, cracking and curling the price of season-to-season dehydration and rehydration
The main offender is the sun it beats down on the deck to rob the wood of natural resins. This in turn causes the wood fibers to deteriorate and turn gray, or even black, over extended periods. This strips the deck of much of its natural protection from the elements and makes it more susceptible to deterioration from water
One of the best ways to protect your deck is to keep it surface-free of debris. Leaves, pine needles and dirt will hold water and accelerate rot. An occasional sweeping is all that’s required
When the weather warms, give your deck a scrubbing with a solution of one cup of powdered laundry detergent in a gallon of hot water. Add a half-cup of liquid chlorine bleach if moss is present. Work the solution in with a stiff bristle broom or a nylon deck brush. Once scrubbed, completely rinse the surface with water.
Severely neglected decks will likely require a washing with a deck-brightening product. Look for one that contains oxalic acid. Apply the product in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions using a nylon deck brush. Remember to wear protective clothing, rubber boots and gloves and safety goggles
A power washing with a high pressure (1500 psi minimum) water blaster will save on elbow grease and make it easy to get to otherwise hard-to-access areas like handrails and trellises. The power washing will also help to remove the discoloration and bring the wood back to its natural color. A power washer can be rented. Use caution when using it to avoid personal injury and damage to the deck.
Replace any rotten boards. Frequently it’s the butt ends of the decking material that will rot first. If this is the case, snap a chalk line perpendicular to the entire course of the decking at the farthest point in which the rot exists, and cut off all of the ends
Replace the removed material with a border consisting of one or more boards running perpendicular to the decking material.
Allow the deck to dry two to three days before applying the finish. Once dry, nail heads which rise above the deck’s surface should be countersunk. One of the simplest ways to do this is to use a pin from a door hinge. The hinge pin serves as an oversized nail set.
Now apply the finish. The deck stain or wood preservative is what protects your deck from the sun and water and keeps it looking good.
Beware of the popular “cure-all” water seals. Many of these products contain petroleum jelly or paraffin, which offers minimal water protection and absolutely no UV protection. Further, these products have little penetration, and rapidly evaporate.
Restore the deck with natural oils. An oil-base deck stain or wood preservative that uses mineral spirits as the carrier will offer the best penetration and thus will do the most to restore the dried-out weathered material to its natural state.
If you like the natural color of the deck, use a clear finish. Just be sure that it contains UV inhibitors. This is especially important since a pigment in a stain helps to protect the deck from getting a sunburn.
If you choose to stain, look for a product designed specifically for decks. Well meaning do-it-yourselfers often end up applying stains designed for vertical surfaces. The vertical stains are not meant for traffic and will scuff.
Your best bet is a semi-transparent oil-base deck stain that will protect the wood from both sun and water. Plan to spend in the neighborhood of $20-$25 per gallon. A single gallon will cover approximately 300 to 500 square feet. Spending a little more for a better product may mean not having to repeat the process the next year. Better stains and wood finishes should last two to three years, depending on the climate. Decks in extreme climates will require cleaning and finishing more frequently.
Apply the finish either early or late in the day when the deck is not in full sun. A china bristle or natural bristle paintbrush is best. It will provide a smooth application and maximum protection by helping to force the material into the pores of the wood. Hard-to-get-at areas like trellises and handrails can be sprayed provided that the material is back-brushed. One application of a high-quality product is all that should be required.
If you have yet to build your deck, we suggest that you purchase kiln-dried material or allow the newly milled lumber with high moisture content to air dry before installation. It usually takes a couple of weeks. This will minimize material shrinkage at joints and result in a more attractive deck.
Once assembled the new deck material should be allowed to air dry another thirty days or so before applying the finish. The dryer the material, the better the penetration. New decks should be washed with the detergent mix mentioned earlier. Stronger deck cleaning products might be required for decks where natural tannins in the wood have leached through to the surface causing stains or spotting.