Your deck is as much a part of your home as any other room, and you should take the time to give it the TLC it deserves.
This is especially true since it has no walls and is more exposed to the elements (rain, snow, sunshine, insects, and the likes).
Why go through the trouble of regular deck maintenance? A properly maintained deck preserves the lifespan of your deck, increases your home’s value, and ensures that your deck is a safe and healthy place to relax (check out our post on the importance of carrying out periodic maintenance inspection.)
If you’ve been looking for the ultimate deck maintenance guide, you’re in luck! Read on to get the full scoop on deck maintenance. PS; we’ve got a ton of content on house maintenance here.
Common Deck Maintenance Issues To Look Out For
Although it’s always better to seek professional help when inspecting your home, here are some common deck maintenance issues to look out for and how to handle them.
Your deck is outside your home, so it’s more exposed to the elements, including insects. To avoid a home infestation, it’s best to call pest control the moment you see any signs of carpenter ant or other insect activity on your deck..
Wood rot is a common issue with wooden decks. It’s usually caused by water damage and is seen mainly in parts of the deck that are hard to seal, such as railings. You should repair and seal affected parts of your deck as soon as possible to avoid accidents or further structural weakness.
Structural weakness is common in old decks or decks that weren’t properly fastened or installed. Telltale signs are shaky railings, sagging beams, or weak posts. Begin by carrying out a thorough inspection below the deck. Check that the ledger board, joists, and posts are properly secure. You can always do this inspection yourself, but it’s better to seek professional help so you don’t miss anything.
It’s not uncommon to find some nails sticking out of your decks (especially if your deck is old). This is caused by the expansion and contraction of your wooden deck as the seasons change. You can deal with popping nails by either pounding them home or replacing them with deck screws. (Tip: choose a deck screw that’s longer than the initial nail to grab new wood).
It’s normal for your deck to lose its luster as it ages. You can either restore its original color with a wood cleaner or tint it the color of your choice. Whatever you choose, ensure you reseal it again to prevent water damage.
Types Of Deck Materials Commonly Used In the Upper Peninsula
The most common materials used for decks in the Upper Peninsula are:
- Pressure-treated wood
Basic Deck Maintenance
These deck maintenance tasks should be done frequently to avoid issues down the line.
- Regularly sweep your deck to avoid piling leaves and twigs on your deck. They retain moisture which causes mold and can leave unpleasant stains on your deck. Keeping the trees and bushes around your deck trimmed can also slow down rot.
- Occasionally move your deck furniture and plants around the deck to prevent discoloration.
- Avoid using carpets made from natural materials as they are more likely to hold moisture and promote mildew.
- Get rid of water puddles on and around your deck.
- Keep your deck clear of snow during the winter.
- Regularly give your deck a good scrub to get rid of mold and keep it from being slippery.
Annual Deck Maintenance
At least once a year, take out time to give your deck a thorough cleaning. It’s advisable to schedule this in late spring or early summer when the temperatures are mild.
- Clear the deck of all furniture and plants.
- Inspect the deck thoroughly. Replace rotting boards and rusted fasteners.
- Using a stiff broom, rid the deck of all debris, paying close attention to the corners and between the board joints. You could also use a sharp object or a putty knife to remove dirt from corners a broom may find difficult to access.
Wash the Deck
The washing procedures for different deck materials differ. The cleaning process for pressure-treated wood and cedarwood is similar, but vinyl decks and composite decks have different cleaning methods.
For Wooden Decks
- Choose an appropriate deck cleaner that removes mildew. Avoid using chlorine bleach to clean the deck; it can strip the wood of its color.
- Depending on the product, you may be required to wet the deck first.
- Apply the deck cleaner with a paint roller, stiff-bristled brush, or a garden sprayer. If you decide to use a power washer, be careful to angle it appropriately to avoid damaging your deck.
- Do not allow any area of your deck to dry out while washing. Also, avoid your cleaner/water mixture gathering in an area while you wash.
- After scrubbing the whole deck, allow it to soak per the manufacturer’s instructions and rinse with clean water.
- Scrub railings from bottom to top to avoid the cleaner staining dry parts of the wood.
For Composite Decks
- Choose a cleaner specifically formulated for composite decks. Using a commercial degreaser and detergent, you can fight grease and oil stains and remove leaf and rust stains with brighteners containing oxalic acid.
- Do not use a power washer. Using a power washer can cause permanent damage to your composite deck.
- Instead, apply your cleaner with a soft brush.
- Rinse off and allow to dry
- Warm water and mild soap are very effective in removing mold, mildew, and dirt from vinyl decks.
- Using a stiff broom, scrub your deck in circular motions.
- Use a hose to rinse off your deck.
Sealing or Staining Your Deck
While staining and sealing your deck improves its appearance, sealing it goes a step further by protecting it from water damage.
Before starting the sealing process, you must allow your deck at least two days to dry properly. If your deck is new or unsealed, allow it to weather for 2 to 3 months.
If you’re not sure if your deck needs sealing, conduct a water drop test by splashing drops of water on the deck board. If the wood absorbs the water, then it needs to be sealed. If the water beads, you can skip this part.
Since the staining and sealing process are pretty much the same, I’ll be using both terms interchangeably.
- Before sealing, use a paint scraper to remove loose paint or opaque deck stain, then sand your deck using 80-grit sandpaper. This will help get rid of any old gloss, smooth out the surface, and help the wood better absorb the sealant.
- Clean the deck after sanding to prevent dust from settling on the new finish. Use a vacuum cleaner if you can.
- Ensure you wear the proper safety gear (gloves, eye protection, and a safety mask) when sanding and sealing the deck.
- Start with the handrails using a paintbrush or paint sprayer to apply the sealant from top to bottom. Use a brush with synthetic bristles for water-based stains and natural bristles for oil-based stains.
- Next, seal the deck floors, section by section, using a roller and a stain brush. Spread the stain with a roller and back-brush with the stain brush.
- Do not allow the stain to puddle or dry unevenly. For best results, avoid applying the stain or seal under direct sunlight.
- Spread the stain using thin coats. Two thin coats turn out better than one thick coat. After application, give the stain time to soak in and clean the excess with a rag.
- Give the deck at least 24 hours to dry.
- Most composite decks do not require stains. If your composite deck can be stained, ensure you’re using the appropriate product.
Up your Deck Maintenance Game with Regular Inspections
Regular inspection of your deck is an essential part of the deck maintenance process. Aside from keeping your deck in good condition, it also helps you spot problems before they get out of hand.
Want the ultimate peace of mind? Schedule a home maintenance inspection! We’ll help you spot all potential issues, so you can take care of them right away and save money in the long run.
U.P Home Inspection LLC. offers inspection services in Escanaba, Marquette, Houghton/Hancock, and its surrounding areas.