When thinking about home maintenance and improvement, it’s important not to pay too much attention to certain areas of your home and none at all to others. And the deck certainly gets overlooked often. Over summer, it’s likely that your deck gets a lot of use, but as the sunny weather draws to a close and temperatures begin to drop, it’s worth thinking about preparing your deck for the colder seasons.
It’s important to keep on top of this, otherwise you might find you’re in for a nasty surprise when the winter snows melt next spring. Poor preparation can cause wooden decks to rot or become unsightly and even dangerous. With a little love and care however, your decking can look fabulous year after year. Check out the following 6 tips to see what you need to do.
Clear the Deck!
First things first, you’re going to need to clean your deck. To do the best job you can, it’s best to clear it entirely. So, remove those summer tools and appliances and give them a good clean before storing them away over winter. Barbecues, deckchairs and other outdoor furniture will all benefit from staying out of the wet and cold. It is simple operations like this one that will keep your house looking like new for years, and maybe if the time comes to sell it, you will not need to work as much to increase your home’s value.
With the deck completely clear, you’re able to inspect it in its entirety for areas that need repair. You can also ensure that all of it stays clean and clear from debris, which if left to build up, can cause the wood to rot.
Look Out for Leaves
Most of us tackle the deck in autumn, so there’s a chance that yours will be covered in leaves. Either sweep or blast these away. If you leave them they will break down and the mulch will fill up the gaps between the planks. On top of that, they will become extremely slippery and dangerous for anyone walking across.
In general, if you clear the leaves once or twice a week, it’s fairly easy to keep on top of it. But, if you find a large build-up of leaves, it might be worth cutting back the branches or bushes responsible, preventing a build up as the weeks pass.
With a clear deck, free from piles of leaves, it’s time to give the decking a more thorough clean. Sweep and clear the worst of it off and be sure to clear any debris from between the gaps. Decks need gaps between the planks in order to properly ventilate and to prevent moisture from building up. If they’re blocked, your wood is in danger of developing mildew or rotting away.
Avoid using a pressure washer, as this can remove the paint or stain and even damage the wood. Instead, use a hose to clear the last bits away. Be on the lookout for stains, mold and mildew and treat if necessary.
There are several deck cleaning products you can buy, or you can make your own mildew wash by combing 3 parts water to 1 part oxygen bleach, plus ¼ cup of ammonia-free liquid dishwasher detergent. Simply apply the solution to the deck, let sit for 15 minutes and rinse off. Tougher stains can be attacked with a soft bristled brush.
Fix it Now, Enjoy it Later
While the weather is still good, try to repair any damage, ensuring your deck will survive the winter and look great next spring. Fix loose boards, check for warped or split wood and be sure to address any issues. These will typically only worsen over time, so it’s best to strike while the iron is hot. One more reason for keeping your wood deck in top condition is that it’s one of the first things potential buyers see, so if you’ll ever want to sell your home, it’s good to think about maintaining its amazing curb appeal.
Finally, check that your deck is still waterproof by splashing it with water. The water should bead up and drain away, but if it’s getting absorbed into the wood, you will need to reseal it. Other signs are bubbling paint, dark gray stains or exposed, bare wood where the stain has rubbed away. Use a chemical stripper to remove the old sealant, then apply 2 coats of fresh stain or paint – just be advised you’ll need several days of good, dry weather for this project.
Raise the Stakes
With the deck clean and fully repaired, you can start to put things back. Keep planters and other large items raised to prevent trapped moisture from building up in the deck underneath. Cedar wood runners do a great job, as cedar wood naturally resists deterioration, decay and rot. Runners of 2 x 2 work well and can simply be placed underneath any objects that might trap moisture, such as storage boxes.
Finally, if you mean to use your deck no matter the weather – perhaps you have a hot tub – you’ll need to take care of it as the snow falls. Rather than a metal shovel, use a plastic shovel to clear the snow, and be sure to follow the direction of the planks, preventing scratches and dinks. Also, avoid using salt to melt ice, as this can damage the stain and discolor the wood.