Deck Care Tips
When the warm weather hits, people head for their decks. There are more than 30 million decks in the United States, and millions more being built every single year.
Certainly, a question that comes up for both new and not-so-new deck owners is how to care for their decks. Here are just a few tips for you on that all-important subject. Be sure to check with your locally owned paint and decorating store for advice for your particular situation.
The most important thing to remember before applying a protective finish to your deck is to do adequate surface preparation. Just as you would not wax your car without thoroughly washing it first, you should not apply any sort of coating on a deck without adequate cleaning.
Make sure your deck surface, whether new or previously stained, is free from oil, grease, dust, dirt and loose wood particles. You can remove some dirt with a hose, but use an appropriate wood cleaner and brightener to be absolutely thorough. If you need to remove mold, mildew or algae, you can use a product specifically suited to that task.
Chlorine bleach is excellent for removal of mold, mildew and algae, but it also can cause premature failure of the coating. Try using a non-chlorine bleach cleaner instead.
Something to watch for on new wood is mill glaze. If this glaze is not broken, any coating you apply will fail prematurely. You can eliminate mill glaze by using mechanical abrasion or buying a product suited to that purpose.
There are a variety of products you can use to coat your deck, from clear wood finishes to translucent to semi-transparent to solid-color stains. The type of product you choose will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of protection you desire and how much you want to see the natural grain of the wood.
When staining your deck, be careful not to apply too much of the product. You don't want to get surface film on the wood when what you're really going for is penetration. Also, be sure to keep a wet edge so you don't get unsightly lap marks. Apply stain in the proper weather conditions. Avoid applying the product in direct sunlight, and be sure there is no chance of rain for the next 24 hours.
Always follow manufacturer's instructions as listed on the label and product literature. When in doubt on any deck care maintenance, call the paint store from which you bought the product or call the manufacturer's toll-free number, usually listed on the can.
How to Clean Your Deck
Anyone who owns a deck knows that it is much more inviting when it is sparkling clean. Not only will cleaning your deck provide it with a fresh look, but also, it will help to maintain the integrity of the wood.
Periodically, throughout the year, you can perform weekly sweeping and removal of debris. At least once a year, you should give your deck a thorough cleaning, following some version of the steps presented below. Additionally, you should treat your deck or reseal the wood at least once a year.
Preparing to Clean the Deck
• Remove everything from the deck, including furniture. Begin by removing the smaller items first. Place the items in an area where they won’t be in anyone’s way.
• Remove potted plants from the exterior perimeter of the deck.
• Lightly cover any delicate or fragile plants in the ground near the deck to protect them from potential disturbance.
• Gather together the tools that you will be using including brooms, dustpans, trash bags, long handled scrubbing brush with stiff bristles, hose with sprayer, pressure washer, bucket, slender stick or tool, commercial deck cleaner, laundry detergent, liquid chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach cleaner, and deck preservative. You may not need all of these, so collect only the ones that you believe you will be using.
Cleaning the Deck
• Begin by removing any large debris by hand and place it in the trash bag.
• Sweep the debris on the deck into piles. Seep up the piles and place them into the trash bag.
• Remove any debris that is trapped in between the deck boards using the slender tool. Place the debris in the trash bag.
• Use the garden hose with a spraying attachment to spray the surface of the deck and rinse it clean. Use the highest or most powerful setting on the sprayer and direct it directly onto muddied or heavily soiled spots to remove as much of the dirt as possible. Begin at one end of the deck and continue until you have rinsed the entire thing. If you use a pressure washer to rinse the deck, leave a few feet in between the spray nozzle and the deck. If you hold the nozzle too closely to the deck, you will gouge the wood. Additionally, you should use the sprayer fan.
• Use the garden hose to spray in between the decking boards to clean away any remaining debris.
• Prepare a solution of sudsy water using the laundry detergent or read the instructions on the commercial cleaner.
• Apply whatever you are using for a cleaner to the deck. Use a long handled brush with stiff bristles or a push broom to scrub the deck. Begin at one end of the deck and work your way to the entire deck.
• Rinse the entire deck with the garden hose to remove the cleaning solution.
• For difficult areas to clean, you will need to take further steps. Areas that have some algae or mildew growth will need to be treated with a solution of one part bleach to four parts water. Be careful not to spill the bleach onto your clothing or any plants since it is harmful. Use plastic or garden gloves to protect your hands if you have delicate skin. The bleach solution may discolor the deck, so you can use an oxygen bleach cleaner to make the cleaning solution if you prefer. Pour the solution onto the area with the growth. If the growth appears fresh, then allow the solution to sit for only a moment or two.If on the other hand, the growth appears to have been there for a while, allow the bleach solution to sit for about fifteen minutes. Use the long handled brush with stiff bristles or the push broom to scrub the area. Rinse the area clean. Allow it to dry.
• If a stain remains on the deck after the first cleaning, then you will need to repeat the process. It is best to allow the area to dry completely before treating it again and to scrub the area for the fifteen minutes that the solution is on it.
• Thoroughly rinse the deck with the garden hose or pressure washer. Allow the deck to dry completely before sealing it. This may take as long as two or three full days.
Resealing the Deck
• Purchase a wood sealer for the deck. Be sure to look at all of your options. Some sealers may include a waterproofing agent or mildewcide that will offer your deck year round protection.
• Check the deck for signs of debris that may have gathered while it was drying.
• Remove any debris and dispose of it in the trash.
• Using a wood sealer that you have purchased, apply it to the deck according to the instructions on the label.
• Once you have allowed the wood sealer to dry according to the directions on the label, replace the furniture onto the deck along with any other items that you wish to keep there.