Maintenance Reminder - Keeping Your Deck Fresh and Fine

Decks and Porches
Cleaning
By Dikran Seferian October 14, 2021

To many households, a deck is the center point of many outdoor leisures. From playing board games to just lounging around and sipping lemonade, families spend countless afternoons making the most out of their deck. This modest wooden extension to a backyard porch is somehow a way of life that, if properly maintained, could serve a household for decades. As the weekend approaches, it might be a good time to check up on your deck for another round of seasonal maintenance. Since a deck is typically made of wood, it may be sensitive to the elements. Keeping your deck well-maintained and in good condition will allow you to reap its benefits for a long time to come. 

How to Go About Maintaining Your Deck

Essentially, the best time to conduct deck maintenance is sometime during spring. The moderate spring weather provides for ideal conditions to get your deck ready for those long afternoons of fun and relaxation.

Clear Out the Space

Prior to getting started, remove everything from your deck. Anything from lawn chairs, coffee tables, plant pots, rugs, and toys will have to get out of the way (for your convenience). Any immovable items can be covered with plastic sheets.

Do a Thorough Sweeping

Sweeping Helps Keep Your Deck Fresh

Sweeping Helps Keep Your Deck Fresh

Using a good, outdoor quality broom, sweep the entire surface of your deck, brushing away dead leaves and other debris. Make sure to get all the corners and edges; dirt tends to gather up in tight spaces.

Scrape Away Debris

With a scraper or a putty knife, scrape out any debris that is trapped in between the deck boards and in crevices where your broom doesn’t reach. To avoid wearing out your knees, try attaching your putty knife to a pole and comfortably scrape away without having to crawl around.

Apply the Cleanser

Mold and Mildew Removal Is Important on the Long Run

Mold and Mildew Removal Is Important on the Long Run

For a wooden deck, use a standard outdoor cleaner to remove any traces of mold and mildew.  Evenly distribute the product throughout the surface using either a paint roller or a garden spray. For vinyl decking, simply scrub some warm water and soap with a stiff broom. Composite decking, on the other hand, might need specialized products applied using soft bristle brushes.

Don’t Forget the Railing

Move on to the deck railing, starting from the bottom and moving your way upwards. Scrubbing in this fashion would prevent unwanted splatter that might be otherwise caused by scrubbing from the top downwards.

Rinse 

While pressure washing may seem like the standard procedure, it may take a toll on the wood, especially in the case of composite decking. Instead, you could opt for a simple garden hose to rinse the deck thoroughly. If you decide on pressure washing, consider choosing a low-pressure setting. 

Let Dry

After rinsing the deck, let it dry for two days before moving on to the next step. You may want to check the forecast before scheduling the maintenance; make sure the skies will be clear and the temperature moderate.

Line the Edges

Stick painter’s tape along the border between your house and the deck to prevent the cleanser from seeping into your home.

Sand Your Deck

Splinters and Rough Edges Can Be Sanded off to Perfection

Splinters and Rough Edges Can Be Sanded off to Perfection

With 80-grit sandpaper, gently sand the deck to get rid of any splinters, rough edges, and potential fuzziness possibly left behind by the cleaning process. For the railing, go for 100 grit sandpaper.

Safety Tip: Make sure to wear safety goggles and a mask to protect yourself against dust particles.

Vacuum

For a cleaner finish, vacuum the deck to get rid of all the dust produced by sanding. 

Apply the Stain or Sealant 

Apply Sealants Only When There’s No Direct Sunlight

Apply Sealants Only When There’s No Direct Sunlight

Using a roller or a flat pad, apply the stain or the sealant three or four boards at a time, paying attention not to allow the product to pool. For the railings, use a paintbrush, working from the top downwards. Use a rag to get rid of any excess product. Decks made of porous wood may require an additional coat for even distribution.

Make sure to do this step when there is no direct sunlight. This would allow for adequate time for the wood to absorb the material before it dries out. For composite decking, make sure to use an appropriate product.

Keep off the Deck

Wait at least a day for the product to fully dry before stepping onto the deck again. Once your deck is stained or sealed, and ready to go, you can finally return all furniture and plants to their places. Alternatively, you can use this opportunity to replace some older items or give your furnishings a complete redesign. 

Precautionary Measures to Account For

Besides the occasional maintenance, you may need to carry out some inspections every now and then as well. Any safety hazards such as cracked wood or protruding nails need to be addressed immediately. 

Keep an Eye Out for Rot

Use a flat-head screwdriver to poke the structural pieces; you can tell if an area has rot if the screwdriver is able to pierce about half an inch into the wood. Small areas of rot can be chiseled out and treated with wood filler. Larger areas, however, will require the entire piece to be replaced. 

Check Ledger for Possible Damage

This is the piece that holds the deck to your house. If the ledger is damaged, your whole deck could be in trouble. With a flashlight, check to see if it has any signs of damage. Don't hesitate to call in a professional to determine if it needs repair or replacement.

Inspect the Beams and Posts 

Check everything else underneath. Anything from beams, posts, and joists should be in good condition. Consider reinforcing parts that aren’t easily replaced or repaired. 

Look for Cracks

Cracks along the deck might not seem as threatening, but addressing them early on may prevent future catastrophes. It’s better not to wait until an issue gets worse before fixing it. 

Look for Exposed Nails

Exposed nails can be a prick of a hazard. Pry up any protruding nails, and consider replacing them with screws. 

Test the Railing 

Give the railing a good wiggle to make sure it doesn’t wiggle. Any loose parts can be caused by cracks that may eventually develop around nails and screws. To fix the damage, seal the cracks with weatherproof adhesive and replace all of the fastenings. 

Replace Broken Boards 

Broken Boards Can Be Dangerous if Left Unfixed

Broken Boards Can Be Dangerous if Left Unfixed

Sometimes, you may need to replace a deck board or two that has taken enough damage. Make sure the new boards blend in well enough with the rest of the deck by using the same type of wood and sealant.

Costs Involved and When to Consider a Professional

Deck maintenance can be a pretty straightforward procedure that you can carry out yourself. However, if you don't have the extra hours to spare, you could hire labor to get the job done. Whether you're hiring some help or taking on the job yourself, there are some costs you may want to take into account.

On average, having someone pressure wash your deck, for example, may cost about $145 per 500 square feet for wooden decks and over $200 for composite decks. Decking treatment such as sealing costs about $700 per 500 square feet while staining costs nearly $1,750. The difference between the two is that staining a deck provides extra UV protection due to the pigmentation it includes. Labor accounts for almost 70% of the prices. You can buy a gallon of stain for $20 to $80 at most, and a gallon of sealant for $20 to $60.


On the other hand, structural repairs bigger than simple fixes like replacing a screw or applying wood filler may definitely warrant home maintenance services (unless you built the deck yourself and know your way around tools). Depending on the scope of work, the cost of repair may amount to anywhere from $150 for minor fixes to $700 to have several boards replaced, on average.

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian