Annual Deck Maintenance: Tips for Each Season
A deck is a great addition to your home that can add outside living space for you and your family to enjoy. However, just like the inside of your home, your deck will require regular cleaning and maintenance to ensure it maintains its integrity and is safe to use. While it is easy to neglect deck maintenance when things get busy, doing so will not only impact your deck’s structural integrity, but it can also negatively affect your property value as well.
Regular deck maintenance is particularly important if your deck gets a lot of use, is in direct sunlight, or is in a cold, wet climate like Washington or Oregon. In these conditions, a deck will be subject to more wear and tear and will be at higher risk of rot and mold, making it important that you perform preventative maintenance and regularly inspect your deck for damage. While there is a common misconception that only natural wood decks need regular maintenance, even low-maintenance decking will need to be cared for. Some of the most common decking materials include:
- Pressure-Treated Lumber
- Natural Wood Like Pine, Redwood, and Cedar
- Tropical Hardwoods
- Aluminum Decking
- Composite Decking (Made from a mix of wood fibers and plastic.)
- And Vinyl (Made from PVC)
While decks can be made from a variety of materials, decks are most commonly made from pressure-treated lumber or composite. Regardless of what your deck is made out of, it will need regular maintenance throughout the year to keep it looking pristine. To help ensure that you and your family are able to enjoy your deck for years to come, this guide will provide steps that you can take each season annually to care for and preserve your deck.
During spring, deck maintenance should be focused on cleaning your deck and getting it ready to use again in the summer. Exposure to moisture and dirt during the winter months can invite mold and mildew growth as well as wood rot, which makes spring maintenance essential in protecting your deck now that the weather is dry.
Clear Your Deck
The first thing that you will need to do before you clean your deck is clear it of any debris that may have accumulated on the deck due to winter storms. Remove big debris such as twigs and branches, then sweep the deck to remove leaves and dirt. Throughout the course of the year, try to make a habit of sweeping your deck weekly. Debris sitting on your deck can pose a trip hazard, and it can trap moisture that could promote mold growth.
Next, you will want to clean your deck to remove dirt and grime that has collected over the winter months. Before you start cleaning your deck, it is important that you choose the right cleaner based on your deck’s material in order to prevent damage. For a wood deck, a standard deck cleaner will work, simply use it as directed. Alternatively, composite decks require a specialty cleaner, and you should follow your manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning your deck. For vinyl decks, use warm water and a mild detergent. Choose a day when the weather is cool and cloudy so that the cleanser doesn’t evaporate quickly, rinse off your deck, and scrub it with your chosen cleanser and a soft scrub brush.
Stain or Seal Your Deck
Next, you will want to stain or seal the deck to protect it from warping and cracking. Make sure the deck has been dry for at least two days since the last time you washed it or since the last rain before you start this project. You can then apply the stain or seal to the decking boards using a roller attached to an extension pole, then back-brush using a stain brush. Stain dries quickly, so try to avoid applying stain in direct sunlight, and make sure to stay off of your newly stained/sealed deck for at least 24 hours.
Midsummer: Inspect Your Deck for Damage
When summer arrives, you will likely start spending more time outside, enjoying dinners with friends and family on your deck. The warm, dry conditions of summer also make this the perfect time to inspect your deck for damage and perform any repairs if necessary. One of the most important things that you can do is take the time to carefully inspect your deck for signs of rot. Use a screwdriver to probe structural members. If you can push a screwdriver a quarter inch or more into the wood in a suspect area, you probably have rot. If you suspect wood rot, you should consult a professional carpenter/builder to have your deck repaired. You should also inspect the deck’s hardware and replace any components that look rusted. Inspecting your deck for damage at least once a year will allow you to spot damage and have it repaired before the problem becomes widespread.
Fall: Take Preventative Measures
Fall is the perfect time to take preventative measures to protect your deck before winter arrives. Make sure to trim bushes and trees that are near your deck to prevent the growth of mold, moss, and rot. Ideally, plants should be at least 12 inches from your deck. You should also regularly sweep up leaves that collect on your deck during fall, as leaves provide the perfect environment for mold growth. You should also make sure that nearby gutters and downspouts are in good condition so that water doesn’t pool on your deck and cause damage this winter.
Deck Maintenance Do’s and Don’ts
Performing the above maintenance steps each season can help keep your deck looking great year after year. However, in order to prevent causing accidental damage to your deck when performing routine maintenance, it is important that you follow a few do’s and don’ts when working on your deck:
Don’t: Use an Acid Wash
If your deck is looking particularly dirty, you may be tempted to use a strong solvent such as an acid wash to clean it. However, acid washes, such as those that contain oxalic acid, will damage your deck’s coatings and should not be used.
Don’t: Use Chlorine Bleach
Similarly, if there are spots on your deck that you can’t seem to get clean, you may be tempted to use chlorine bleach. If it can remove tough stains inside your home, why can’t you use it on your deck? The problem is that bleach isn’t good for your deck, particularly if your deck is made from wood, as bleach will strip away the wood’s natural color. Bleach will also harm any plants and foliage near your deck. While it may cost more, it is worth it to invest in a deck cleaner specifically designed for your deck’s material.
Do: Clean and Sand Your Deck Before Sealing It
When it comes time to seal your deck, it is critical that you clean and sand it beforehand. After having your deck power washed, wait at least 48 hours for the deck to dry thoroughly, then sand it to remove any fuzzy or splintery areas left behind by the power washer. While it may be tempting, don’t use a power sander, as this could damage your deck. Instead, use 80-grit sandpaper with a pole sander. You can then apply a fresh coat of sealant to prevent warping and cracking.
Do: Hire a Professional Power Washer Once a Year
As we’ve previously mentioned, cleaning your deck regularly is critical in order to keep it looking nice and prevent rot. In addition to regular cleanings, your deck will also need to be deep cleaned once a year with a pressure washer to remove stuck-on dirt and grime. However, in the wrong hands, a pressure washer can actually damage your deck, which is why you should consider hiring a professional power washer in order to ensure that the job is done right. If you do attempt to power wash your deck yourself, it is important that you follow your manufacturer’s instructions, as not all decking materials can be power washed, and a lower setting must be used in order to prevent damaging, or even removing, the wood.
Contact PDX ProWash for Professional Deck Cleaning
Keeping your deck clean is critical in order to ensure it not only looks nice, but also to prevent mold and mildew growth, helping to protect its structural integrity. Pressure washing your deck annually can be a key component in keeping your deck free from contaminants and debris. However, depending on your deck’s material, pressure washing needs to be done carefully in order to prevent causing inadvertent damage to your deck.
At PDX ProWash, we know how important proper maintenance is in protecting the look of your deck, and we have the equipment, knowledge, and experience to ensure the job is done right. Feel free to contact us to find out about having your deck power washed as well as for additional deck maintenance tips.