Summer’s in full swing—that time of year when barbeques last long into the night and deckside lounging is king. Of course, it’s also around this time that you notice that grease stain off to one side of the deck and realize how bedraggled your porch furniture has gotten.
Luckily, there’s a cure for ho-hum decor and rundown deck boards, and all it requires is a little elbow grease on your part. A solid deck maintenance schedule is easy enough to stick to once you get started and doesn’t demand a lot of special equipment or expertise. All you have to do is follow the steps in the guide below, and you should be in barbeque paradise by the end of the weekend.
- Give it a clean sweep. Decks get pretty grungy throughout the year, collecting dust, pollen, and leaves that leave it grimy to the touch. To get it barefeet-ready, sweep the boards, steps, and railings thoroughly with a broom or brush at least twice a year, particularly after strong winds or rain.
- Get it squeaky clean. If you know decks, you know that sometimes it takes more than a broom to get a deck shining at its full lustre. The fastest way to get it done is by using a pressure washer, but you’ll also need to be careful with the pressure settings, since high-powered washes can strip away paint and finishes. Use a mixture of one part bleach to one part warm water, or purchase a commercial deck cleaner made just for the job. Always read the instructions before using, though—some deck materials, like vinyl or composite wood, may not stand up to chemical detergents. Thorough cleaning like this is absolutely imperative if you’re going to be sealing the deck soon as well.
- Spot treat mold and grease stains. Deck stains resulting from mold, mildew, or grease need a little special attention, however. To attack mold and mildew, spray on a commercial mold cleaner or a mixture of oxygen bleach combined with liquid dishwashing detergent and water. To get rid of grease, use a chemical degreaser instead. Allow the cleaner to sit for at least 10 to 15 minutes. For heavy stains, you can also use a scrub brush to really get into the grain.
- Inspect for damage. Wear and tear from weather can leave decks a little dinged up—usually nothing too serious. However, certain damage can threaten the structural integrity of your deck, resulting in eventual collapse. That’s why a full deck inspection once a year is always welcome. Things to look for? Popped nails, for one, which can either be hammered back into place or replaced with a longer screw. Also look for warped or cracked boards that may need some attention (more on that in a moment). Evaluate the railings and joists as well, searching for any evident damage. You’ll also need to look beyond the your deck’s surface, though. Take a few moments to eye over the stairs and risers, looking for signs of rot, particularly close to the ground. Also climb under the deck and check out the ledger, the framing that attaches the deck to your home. A compromised ledger is a deck death sentence, often resulting in eventual collapse. If you see anything more serious than a warped board or two or a small piece of rot, have a professional out to make the repairs.
- Replace damaged boards. Here at Modernize, we help homeowners tackle projects of all kinds in their homes. Still, some are best left to professionals—in this case, the bigger deck problems, such as repairing weight-bearing pieces. For small rotted spots (we’re talking no bigger than a quarter), use a chisel to notch out the damage, and then treat the missing spot with wood preservative, which will help keep the rot from creating further problems. For larger cracks or soft boards, you’ll need to replace. To do so, first remove the offending piece to the nearest joist, and then insert a matching board. Use deck screws or nails that are at least 1½ long, then sit back and appreciate your handywork!
- Repaint, reseal or re-stain. Decks frequently need to be resealed, repainted, or re-stained, and now’s as good a time as any to do it. For the record, however, you only need to repaint or re-stain every two years if the finish you choose has a protective sealant included. For natural wood, however, plan on refinishing with toner or sealer every spring. Regardless of what’s going on top, however, you’ll first need to lightly sand the deck surface using 80-grit sandpaper. If you’re painting, apply a coat of wood primer first, as well. Then use a paint sprayer or long roller to apply the finish. Make sure you spread it in smooth strokes, especially if you’re staining, since an uneven coat will be visible once it dries. Add a second coat if necessary and allow it to dry fully before using. Congratulations! You’ve just given your deck a brand new lease on life!