Summer is nearly here and now is the time to make sure your outdoor spaces are as ready as your are. Whether your deck is wooden, vinyl or a composite material, it will require some routine maintenance to keep it in tip top shape. Taking care of the simple tasks annually will prevent more serious repairs in the future.
Before you fire up the grill and invite the neighbors over, follow these simple steps to make sure your deck is safe and ready for summer fun to begin.
1. Give it a once over
Thoroughly look over your deck -top to bottom. Look for loose or weathered boards, supports and railings. Tighten any screws and level any protruding nails. Sand down any splintering boards and fill in cracks if possible.
2. Clean it
Start by sweeping the deck thoroughly. Use a putty knife to get excess debris out from between boards and follow up with a garden hose and stiff bristled brush to remove the rest. While a pressure washer may be ok on some surfaces, note that they can be too intense and even cause more damage.
A mix of warm soapy water should be all that is necessary, although there are products made specifically for wood and composite decks. It is best to wash your deck on a cloudy day, or at a time when the sun is not directly overhead to give yourself time to clean and rinse without baking the cleaner (and to avoid sunburn!).
If you have a composite or vinyl deck, your job is done. Sealing is not required or recommended for either, though you can stain some composite decking if it has faded. Check the manufacturer's literature beforehand.
3. Seal it
If you have a wood deck, you'll want to seal it after cleaning for added protection. You should expect to seal your deck every year, and restain it as needed, probably every two or three years depending on foot traffic and sun exposure. There are several finish options to consider:
- Sealer simply seals the wood and lets the natural grain and color show through.
- Toner adds just a hint of color to the wood, but still allows the natural wood color and grain to show through.
- Semi-transparent stain will tint the wood but still allow the grain to show. You can get semi-transparent stains in wood tones and a variety of other colors, such as green, blue, gray and more.
- Solid stain goes on more like paint, completely covering the grain. It protects the wood completely against weather and UV rays. It also can chip and peel like paint, so be sure to prep well.
Plan to seal or stain your deck when you will have two days of moderate weather and no rain expected. (Be sure to follow all manufacturer recommendations). After washing the deck, you'll want to lightly sand it with 80-grit paper to smooth the grain. By sanding the wood, you will have raised the grain to absorb the stain or sealer. Apply the sealer or stain in thin coats with a roller, using a brush to get between boards, if necessary. Use a brush or small roller for the deck railings as well as any built-in benches or planters you may have. Let the finish dry completely for two days before using your deck.