How to Care for Your Outdoor Deck
An outdoor deck can be a wonderful addition to virtually any home. It offers a comfortable space for fun, food, and relaxation, and, when done right, can look fantastic. Moreover, a high-quality outdoor deck (such as the ones that we build here at Diamond Deck) can be an important yet affordable investment in your home. In order to protect that investment while also ensuring that you get maximum enjoyment out of your deck, it is crucial to perform regular cleaning, inspection, and maintenance. This article will offer a step-by-step guide to caring for your outdoor deck year round.
Spring means warmer temperatures, sunny days, and the start of deck-enjoying season. This alone is already a good reason to get out there and give your deck a deep cleaning in order to ensure maximum enjoyment throughout the year. There are also important maintenance-related factors that make springtime the best time to perform a deep cleaning. For example, the damp yet warm weather conditions create a perfect environment for mold and mildew. Additionally, the hot, sunny conditions of summer can evaporate most deck-cleaners before they actually have time to set in and have a real effect–while cleaning in winter is also out of the question.
To clean your deck, the first step will be cleaning any and all debris out of the cracks between the boards with a putty knife or a similar tool. Once this is completed, the entire deck should be cleared of furniture and other items, and then swept thoroughly. Once all of this has been completed, it is time to use your a deck cleaning product. There are a number of options on the market, so be sure to research which options work best with the material of your deck, and with your local climate.
Regardless of what cleaning product you use, it is almost always best to scrub in circular motions, to avoid product pooling, and to rinse with a hose or with buckets of water shortly after washing. It is also important to note that power washers are almost never recommended for decks, as their power can potentially cause permanent damage to most decking materials.
Sealing Your Deck
Several days after washing (and no sooner than two days after washing) your deck is ready to be sealed. Ensure that there will be at least two days of clear skies and moderate temperatures, in order to ensure that rain and/or extreme temperatures do not prevent the seal from drying properly.
There are several options available when it comes to sealing: you can choose a completely transparent sealer, a sealer that adds a tinge of shine or color, or a sealer that gives the wood a new color and covers up the original look completely. This is a question of aesthetic taste, but there are also some practical considerations to take into account as well: the more your toner covers the look of the wood, the more it is also going to protect against weathering.
After sealing, you may also wish to apply a stain finish. These can be reapplied as needed (always after sealing), and a general recommendation might be once every two years. Be sure to use the proper protection (a facemask and goggles), in order to stay safe while working on your deck.
Assuming that you performed your annual deep cleaning and sealing during the springtime, mid-summer is likely the best time of the year for a thorough inspection. Check thoroughly for rot, probing the surface of the deck and any support areas with a screw-driver. Should you find rot, it will be imperative to act quickly. Small patches of rot can sometimes be treated with a wood restorative, whereas larger patches may require support members to be replaced.
As you inspect for damage and rot, pay special attention to the ledger. This is the area that connects the deck with the house–and it is the most crucial support area of the entire deck. Studies show that ledger problems are the cause of roughly 9 out of every 10 deck collapses. Special care should also be given to joints, beams, and other structural support points. Such inspections are one of the most important steps you can take in order to avoid problems–and are just as important as selecting and building a strong deck in the first place.
The fall is the best time to care for the plants and trees surrounding your deck. Take time to trim any branches that may be intruding on the deck area, and ensure that any personal plants you have sitting on the deck are moved at regular intervals throughout the year in order to avoid discoloration. Finally, make sure that leaves are not allowed to pile up on or around the deck, as this creates the perfect breeding ground for mold.