A deck is one of the best home features you can have. It expands your living space, gives you a space to enjoy the outdoors from your own home, and increases the value of your home.
Decks are also easy to neglect. They’re outside and exposed to the elements—and depending on where you live, they may sit dormant during winter months. That’s why maintenance is so important. A deck that is well-maintained can last twice as long as one that is neglected.
Fortunately, most problems with decks are cosmetic and can be addressed without breaking the bank. There are ways to bring your deck back to life and turn it into an attractive, useful space again. Cleaning, restoring, refinishing, changing the railing, and adding other features can improve your old or weathered deck. In this post, we’ll discuss three of the easiest and most important things you can do.
1. Clean your deck
First, sweep the dirt and debris off your deck with a broom or leaf blower. Buy a commercial deck cleaner or TSP (trisodium phosphate) heavy-duty cleanser and follow the directions on the bottle. Make sure you wear rubber gloves and goggles. You may have to repeat the cleaning. You’ll need a stiff-bristle push broom. Scrub the surface thoroughly with a solution of the cleaner and water. Then, rinse with clean water and allow the surface to dry.
You can also use a pressure-washer; if you do, get one that uses 1,200 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure or less. It should also have a spray nozzle that fans about 25 to 40 degrees. Be careful, as this powerful burst of water can erode soft wood grain.
2. Remove stains and discoloration
UV rays and wear can damage the wood’s structure. If the color has become a dull gray, the problem isn’t hard to fix. Dark stains may be caused by mildew. You can clean them with soap and water, or bleach. There are several products available that can help with stains and discolorations. Products that are bleached-based get rid of mildew, and acid-based products eliminate stains and graying. Note that some products can darken woods like cedar and redwood, so test the product in a small, unnoticeable area before you apply it to the surface.
How do you know if a stain is mildew? Apply a drop of undiluted liquid bleach to a small, black spot. If the spot goes away, clean the deck with a mild cleanser (without ammonia). Then, rinse with a solution of one part liquid bleach (household bleach) and four parts water. Rinse again.
For non-mildew stains, use an acid-based deck restoration product and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Make sure to wear rubber gloves, goggles, and clothes you don’t care about when cleaning with these products.
3. Finish your deck
After cleaning and removing stains from your deck, it’s time to add a protective finish. To figure out whether it needs to be stained, sprinkle a few drops of water on the wood; if the water soaks in rather than forming beads, the deck needs sealing. Talk to a qualified deck specialist to help you choose the best finish for the type of wood you have.
The best finishes don’t merely produce a surface film; they soak into the wood. The finish should be water repellant or waterproof, not just water resistant. It should also provide UV protection, and may contain mildewcide if mildew is a potential problem.
A revived and beautiful deck
Let’s face it; it’s easy to get behind on deck maintenance. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to bring your deck back to life. Not only will these interventions make your deck look vibrant and new—they’ll help protect it in the months and years to come. If you think your deck has structural problems, or if you’re interested in more comprehensive upgrades, find a reputable deck builder in your area and ask for a consultation.