Caring for a DeckWe recently purchased a tenderly and lightly used home with all components in tact with exception of the wooden deck. We think the wood structure needs construction comfort and assistance and we are asking what do we do?
Aging deck structures with a lack of routine maintenance and care can certainly create issues for backyard enjoyment. We do have harsh weather in our area which can contribute to deck maintenance and deck erosion issues. We talked with Fergul Moloney of Moloney Construction and Russ Lambrecht of JAGR Custom Homes and they gave some pointers to tell if your deck needs help.
Check the deck boards for softness, cracking and rot. Take a look at the posts and beams that provide the support for the deck. Do you see any sagging? Visually inspect all of the hardware connections – do you see any bolts or screws that might be loose or backing out or rusting? It is relatively easy to pound the nails back in, but a better solution would be to pull the loose nails out and drive back in with a deck screw or longer nail. Something to keep in mind according to both Fergul and Russ is that if a nail is slightly protruding, it is better to pound it back in vs. pulling it out. It is important to look at the foundation and footing piers. Do you see any sinking? If your deck has stairs or handrails, check for rot, lack of stability and make sure these areas are not wobbly or loose. It is critically important to maintain the structural integrity of a deck. If you find small areas of rot that can be easily removed, you can certainly fill and patch these areas with a good quality wood preservative. Decks are a relatively good investment for a yard and provide a good return on the original cost, so it is important to ensure good upkeep and maintenance. Russ said that because our area does have harsh weather elements, decks require annual maintenance to provide longevity. A good course of annual maintenance should be cleaning and sealing, even decks that are made from composite materials should be washed and cleaned annually.
Washing the deck. One sure sign a deck needs to be cleaned is the appearance of mold and dingy dirt. If these items are left on the deck or in between the deck surfaces, they certainly will cause rot. All debris should be removed from between the deck boards. There are a variety of standard deck cleaners on the market, or you can make your own with half bleach and half water. It is best to clean your deck on a cool and somewhat cloud filled day so all of the cleaning material does not evaporate. Once you clean the deck, then you should consider cleaning the stairs and any hand rails and you should always clean from bottom up, this way any splatters that fall should be on the wet surface and will not leave any marks. If you are cleaning a composite deck, it is important to make sure you use the correct cleaning material for composite decks and in talking with our local lumber stores, they highly recommend that you do not clean composite decks with a pressure washer as this can permanently damage the decking material and void your warranty.
Sealing the deck. It may or may not be obvious if your deck needs sealing. If you are unsure, toss some water droplets on the deck. If the water beads up that is a good sign, if the water soaks in then you should reseal the deck, after washing. Decks should be resealed no less than 2 days after you have washed the deck. There are many sealers on the market and many sealing color options such as clear sealers, semi-transparent stains, solid stains; these are all a personal preference.
It can be an arduous process for maintaining, cleaning and sealing a deck and I highly recommend that the thrill of slipping on kneepads, gloves, old shoes and whatever else should be thrills left up to the professionals and all we have to do is enjoy our deck in a nice lounge chair with music and chicken on the barbie.