A wood deck is one of the classic symbols of homeownership and summer. It can be a cookout space with a grill, an al fresco dining area with a table and umbrella or an outdoor retreat for sunbathing, container gardening or reading. While your deck is usually a place where you can take it easy, you’ll also need to perform some occasional maintenance work here so your deck can continue to provide you with years of leisure.
As with many things, spotting and correcting problems early is the best strategy. With a bit of attention and the maintenance checklist below, you can get many great years of enjoyment from your deck.
Keep clean and dry
Spills, mud, leaf mold and other contaminants can discolor your deck and attract unwanted insects. Keep the deck clean by promptly scrubbing off any stuck-on debris using warm water and wood-safe oxygen bleach (mixed according to the product’s directions) and rinsing clean. Repeat these steps and spot cleaning as needed throughout the year.
The deck should also be cleaned at the start of every season using either the process above or by spraying the deck with a power washer on its lowest pressure setting to scour away dirt and grime.
You can let your deck air dry after a cleaning or rainfall so long as you remove any items that might hold water to the deck’s surface. Using outdoor rugs or doormats that are quick-dry rubber and placing saucers beneath potted plants is important to minimize damaging moisture.
Sand down weathered wood
All decks change as they weather. Natural woods such as redwood, cedar and teak can become rough and turn gray over time. Thankfully, these changes are only surface deep. Sanding a natural wood deck will remove the weathered layer to reveal the original color and texture beneath.
Seal and stain regularly
Sealing and staining are often the first words that come to mind when discussing deck maintenance, and for good reason. These treatments play a major part in the durability and appearance of your deck.
Once a year, a penetrating sealer should be applied to your deck. First, clean the deck and allow it to fully dry, and then sand it (if desired) before applying your sealer. A product that repels water, protects from UV rays and resists mildew is recommended. Make sure you use the correct kind of sealer for your deck, especially if your deck is natural wood.
If your treated-wood deck has become faded, you can go with a combination sealer and stain to revitalize its appearance while protecting the wood.
Replace loose nails and screws
Changes in humidity and temperature cause wood to swell and move over time. Often, this eventually causes the nails in the deck to become loose or raised.
Rather than hammering raised nails back down, remove them and replace them with decking screws.
If your deck is treated lumber, go with plastic-coated ACQ-compliant screws. If you have a natural wood deck, select screws with a corrosion-resistant coating.
Swap out damaged planks
Even properly treated wood can begin to warp or rot over time. The longer the board, the more susceptible it is to warping.
These defects aren’t just unsightly. They can cause someone to trip or get a splinter.
Replacing the entire defective plank is ideal. However, if just a small portion is affected, you can cut the plank back to the center of a joist and install a replacement section.
Secure loose railings
Your deck’s railings may not take as much abuse as the planks you walk on, but weather damage, loosening fasteners and kids’ horseplay can all take their toll. If a rail becomes wobbly, it will require more than just some new screws to stabilize it.
Adding an additional vertical post between existing support posts is one of the best ways to beef up the lateral support for a railing. Install the new post by bolting it to the deck’s rim joist and to the railing.
Replace failing posts
If your deck is settling, tilting or sloping, one or more of your posts are likely failing. Inspect the posts near the lowest part of the deck. The necessary repairs will depend on the type of damage found.
If a support post has slipped downward through its concrete footing, jack up the deck until it is level and bolt angle iron support brackets to the base of the post.
If a support post is rotting, jack up the deck and replace the entire post. The new post should be mounted in an iron post bracket secured on top of the concrete footing.
To minimize the chance of future post rot, apply vinyl concrete patcher around the base of the support post to create a bevel that channels water away from the wood.
It takes a bit of elbow grease and more than a few buckets of sealer to maintain your deck. If you keep up with the job, you can minimize your work and expenses and maximize the time and enjoyment you’ll get from your deck.