The type of maintenance your deck will need depends on the material it’s made of. Maintenance could be as simple as washing with mild soap and warm water, or as time-consuming as staining and waterproofing.
Prevention is better than replacement, so don’t put off deck maintenance if you want your deck to last the full extent of its life.
To keep your deck in good condition take the following preventative measures:
- ⬥ Trim bushes and trees located nearby, to at least 12 inches from the deck. This will slow down mold, rot, and moss.
- ⬥ Sweep leaves and other debris off the deck regularly.
- ⬥ Move chairs, plants, and tables around on the deck to prevent wearing and discoloration.
- ⬥ Keep the gutters and downspouts near your deck in good condition to prevent water and other debris from accumulating on your deck.
Each fall, inspect the construction of your deck to ensure that it’s still safe and strong. This is one step to maintain your deck.
- ⬥ Secure rails that aren’t loose or shaky.
- ⬥ Bolts (not just screws) that securely attach the deck to the house.
- ⬥ Decking that’s solid with no loose or rotted boards.
Even if you’ve been maintaining your deck there will be times that you need to do more than prevention. As noted earlier, what needs doing will depend on several factors, including how old your deck is and the materials used in its construction.
While it’s among the most economical choices around for decks, wood needs more maintenance than other options. So keep this in mind if you ever need to replace your current deck.
It’s recommended that wood decks be stained and sealed every three to four years. And while it’s something you can have done professionally if you prefer to DIY the process it’s fairly straightforward.
However, it’s important to note that if you do decide to stain and seal the deck yourself, experts recommend that you only do it when the wood has a moisture content of around 15 percent.
How do you determine the moisture level?
Professionals who work with wood all of the time will use a moisture meter, but you can get a good idea of the moisture in your wood decking by pressing a flat screwdriver into a hidden area of your deck. If moisture seeps to the top you’ll need to wait until it dries more before you can stain the wood.
Once you’ve applied the stain add a protective finish to all of your hard work with deck sealing. It will help mold and mildew from attacking the wood and protect against splintering and cracking from temperature changes.
One thing to note: while pressure washing is a good way to clean a deck, unless you’re experienced in using one it’s possible to fur up or scar the wood by using too much pressure or putting the tip of the washer too close to the wood.
Made of wood and plastic, composite decking is a very popular option for its durability and easy maintenance. And while it is easy to maintain it’s not “maintenance free”.
If you have a composite deck you’ll still need to check for mold and mildew growth (look in shady, damp areas of your deck) since it’s partly made of wood.
You can help prevent mold and mildew growth by ensuring that your decking has ventilation under it; at a minimum, ensure that you have 6 inches of airflow underneath it.
Look for standing water. If you see that water pools in a certain location of your deck try to make adjustments to encourage drainage and prevent water from pooling in that area.
If you use mulch in your yard, don’t place it on or near your decking.
Don’t use welcome mats or rugs with a rubber backing as they can hold moisture. Go with woven rags to let your deck “breathe”.
Routinely sweeping your deck is the best way to maintain it; don’t let leaves, branches, and other organic matter build up on or near your deck. Clean out between the gaps in the boards using a putty knife or spatula, and then spray off your deck with a garden hose to get anything you might have missed.
Promptly clean up grease to keep it from staining your decking. If necessary, use a mild detergent to help cut through the oil.
Made entirely from plastic, polymer (a/k/a PVC) decking often comes with a lifetime warranty. It doesn’t fade in direct sunlight and is entirely resistant to mold and rotting.
Aside from collecting dirt and debris – which are easily swept and washed away – this type of decking is entirely maintenance-free and comes in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and textures.