Spring break 2013 is here! Are you thinking about a project during your “staycation?” Now is the time to start thinking about your deck’s appearance and functionality. It may not feel like spring, but warm weather will be here before you know it, and you’ll want your deck open for business.
Our aggressive seasons, kids, and pets take a toll on our decks. You may find your deck’s appearance to be bad enough to rip the whole thing up and start over. Before getting crazy, spend a couple of afternoons outside and try to rejuvenate your deck. Easy repairs to structural issues, a good cleaning, and staining, will extend your deck’s life considerably. And, it will cost a lot less than replacing it. A typical deck clean-up can be accomplished in two days, but it’s better to plan to spread your work over two weekends to ensure the deck wood is dry before applying a stain. However, if you have major structural issues, enlist some help.
Begin by inspecting your entire deck. There are particular areas that need careful scrutiny. Any part of the deck that is in direct contact with the ground, like posts, stair stringers, or joists at ground level could have structural damage. Arm yourself with a screwdriver; if you can shove the tip of the screwdriver into a post or joist, it has rotted, and needs to go. You will also want to inspect the deck-to-house connection. Loose screws, nails, or bolts can rust. Damaged flashing, or spacers can not only cause rot, but also allow moisture to work its way into your house. Look for black stains on the inside and outside of flashing. After you have checked the deck’s structural integrity, look for any cosmetic damage. Pull any loose nails and replace them with screws or consider using galvanized ring-shanked nails. They will stay secure, and match what’s already in place. Also, carefully look for any loose wood. Remove it, and do a little sanding if you must. Nothing says “Happy 4th of July” like a giant splinter in your foot.
You should plan to clean your deck at least once a year; if you already do this, you can easily revive the deck with a deck cleaner like Thompson’s Deck Wash. This can be a strenuous workout; be sure to work the deck cleaner into the deck with a stiff-bristle brush and a fair amount of elbow grease. When working with chemicals, always plan to wear protective eyewear. Some weaker solutions may be “plant-friendly,” but be prepared to protect anything you really care about with with plastic sheeting. A powerful deck cleaner can burn foliage leaves on contact.
If you’re looking for some fun, and need to work on some tough stains, use a pressure washer. You can rent one for close to $70 a day. First, work over the deck with a stiff-bristle brush. Remove any loose debris, and then rinse with the pressure washer and cleaning solution. There are several types available, depending on the condition of your deck. Be very careful when working with any cleaning chemicals, especially when they’re in their most concentrated (premixed) form. Wear the proper safety equipment and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Rinse the surface thoroughly and allow it to dry before refinishing.
After you have made all repairs to the deck, and you’ve cleaned it thoroughly, it’s time for a protective finish. If your deck is relatively new, a clear finish, or transparent stain, will work well. But, if your deck is a bit older and has some wear-and-tear, we recommend a semitransparent stain. You will still be able to see the grain of the wood, but the pigment gives the old wood a clean, uniform look. If you have replaced any of your deck, and installed new wood in some areas, the color will help the new wood blend in. The stain is absorbed by the wood, so you don’t need to worry about chipping, or peeling, and it provides protection from the sun and other extreme elements.
If you’re planning to apply a stain, a two-inch sprayer works well. Begin by spraying a light coat, starting at an inside corner, and working out, spraying parallel to the deck boards. The stain should absorb quickly into the wood. After spraying, use a brush to smooth out any puddles, and help work the stain into the wood. You may need to to apply two to three coats to get a uniform finish. Plan to apply your second and third coat while the first coat is still wet. And since decks can get a lot of traffic, plan to apply a fresh coat of stain every other year. Consider applying a clear water repellant between stainings for extra protection. Make the most of the spring and summer months and enjoy your deck!