blogpost
Deck Maintenance: Dos and Don’ts
author Anna Sitta, June 19, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up, spending some quality time outside and enjoying the sunshine is allowing many of us to pay more attention to the exterior of our properties. Decks are a unique feature that adds both value and living space to a property’s exteriors, and alongside pools and playgrounds, tops the charts as one of the most beloved amenities amongst tenants who get to enjoy outdoor cookouts and hangouts on their decks. Building a deck requires extensive and mindful planning to ensure that decks are safe and built to last, which combined with the cost of materials, typically results in quite a significant price tag. This week’s article will provide a helpful series of contractor-approved guidelines for keeping decks in top-shape as well as overviewing common mistakes that are actually damaging to a deck’s materials and structure.

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Maintenance Dos

Schedule an Annual Deep Cleaning Procedure
A deep cleaning procedure works as an “exfoliator” that both cleans the deck and also allows for the wood’s surface to become better primed for treatments. Scrubbers and pressure washers can be used for this procedure, which apply proper friction for the porous surface to “open up” and better absorb sealants and treatments. Our experts warn that being mindful about exterior temperatures is fundamental: for example, when it’s too hot, cleaning solutions and treatments lose efficacy as they evaporate more quickly. Deep cleaning should be performed when it’s dry and about 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

Familiarize Yourself With Available Treatments and Treat Accordingly
Sealing decks is essential for protecting their look and structure and thus prolonging their lives. Untreated wood is vulnerable to surface damages, cracking, rotting and discoloration caused by weather, water, pest and UV rays. Available sealants include natural and synthetic sealants, stains and paint. Certain characteristics contribute to making some of those treatments more ideal than others: for instance, natural sealants can include oils that pests and algae find appealing, and paint is known to chip and bubble over time instead of aging well like stains do. It’s always best to consult an expert before settling with a treatment that has never been applied to a deck before.

Allow for Proper Drying
After being cleaned, sanded and treated, decks need time to thoroughly dry. Checking the weekly forecast and keeping tenants from using the deck too soon are final but vital steps to ensure time spent treating was time well spent.

Pay Attention and Inspect Seasonally
Decks should be inspected regularly to ensure that any damage, cracks, rusting and loose components are noted and repaired as soon as possible. If a problem is noticed in the wintertime, it’s not ideal to wait until the warmer season to address it as it might then not only be completely forgotten about - and thus allow for injuries to occur once the deck is used more often - but could potentially be worsened by being exposed to harsh seasonal weather for several weeks.

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Maintenance Don’ts

Be Overconfident After Sealing
A sealed deck is not maintenance-free. While sealing takes care of protecting the deck from most elements, areas that are not covered are still exposed and thus prone to damage and wear. It’s important to keep the deck clean and free of debris and dirt to prevent staining, and still inspect the deck with regularity.

Go the Do-It-Yourself Route
For major procedures - sanding, sealing, deep cleaning - it’s always best to turn to a professional, as botched maintenance job almost always results in visibly damaged areas that require being completely replaced. Sanding and pressure washing can permanently warp the surface of the wood.

Get Aggressive With Cleaning
Cleaning is supposed to complement the protective and nurturing purpose of sealants. It’s important to avoid utilizing harsh chemicals, like bleach, which can permanently stain and ruin the natural coloration of the wood. Pressure washing can also do more harm than good when it’s used too much or incorrectly, which is why maintenance professionals emphasize keeping in mind that it has the ability to strip off the wood.

Forget About Nearby Vegetation
The products utilized for cleaning and treating wood are typically not plant-friendly. It’s important to cover surrounding vegetation with a plastic or cloth tarp - the latter allows for better ventilation and is recommended for longer projects - to keep it from being killed by the chemicals.