How to keep your deck in tip-top shape
Americans love to have outdoor spaces on their property where they can relax, visit with friends, host parties or do just about anything they wish. Decks are functional additions that expand a home’s living space and enhance appearances. How much decks cost can vary wildly from a few hundred dollars for a basic design using pressure-treated pine, to tens of thousands for complex layouts that use more expensive lumber products such as redwood or cedar or that are made using exotic wood, composites or vinyl.
Whether the investment in your deck is large or small, it’s worth preserving to maximize its useful life and maintain its value.
Keeping it clean
Decks will last longer if kept clean. Homeowners should keep decks clear of dirt and debris as much as possible using a broom or blower. A once weekly cleaning of the surface will help minimize the opportunity for mold and mildew and will reduce stains from leaves, animal droppings, etc.
No matter how often you crank up the blower or sweep the surfaces, a deck is going to get dirty, which means you periodically need to give it a thorough cleaning.
Pressure washing is a great way to make a deck look like new, but there are several important considerations. Unless your deck is made from an impermeable material such as vinyl, you should first scrub it with a good deck-cleaning solution, which is available at all home improvement stores. This will kill imbedded mold and mildew and loosen dirt so that the pressure washing will be more effective.
Set your pressure washer to a level that removes the dirt and debris without damaging the surface. The highest setting isn’t necessarily the best and could do more harm than good by destroying wood fibers.
Once you have completed the pressure-washing process, let your deck dry completely. In the summer if you have no rain, it should be two to three days and then you’re good to go with next steps. In cooler seasons, it will take longer and if rain comes your way, adjust the drying time accordingly.
Once you’re certain the decking is dry, water sealers or stains will preserve the wood and are easy to apply. Typically available in one- to five-gallon sizes, the most popular sealants and stains can be applied with brushes, rollers or sprayers, just as you would with paint. However, because of its low viscosity, applying sealer or stain requires just a fraction of the time it would take to paint the same surfaces.
Sealants are generally clear and, as the name implies, stains will add varying amounts of color to suit your taste. Some products are oil-based, others are water-based. The oil-based sealants are priced higher, but may be more cost-effective in the long run as they penetrate the wood better than water-based products and are more durable. The best sealants need to be reapplied every three to four years for best long-term protection. Some of the lower priced water-based products may need reapplication in as little as a year.
This Old House says, for decks that are elevated, ongoing inspections are essential to ensure the posts and cross beams that support the flooring don’t have cracks or rot. If the deck is affixed to the house, the ledger board must be firmly bolted to the main structure with no space between the two, and caulking applied to prevent water seepage.
All decks should be inspected regularly for loose or damaged wood. Usually the fix is simple. Tighten or replace decking screws or tap down exposed nail heads as needed. Replace wood that may have been damaged by falling tree limbs, gnawed by backyard wildlife or is showing signs of rot.
It is also important to do a visual inspection of screw and nail heads. The deck should have been assembled with galvanized screws and/or nails, but that doesn’t always happen and rust becomes your enemy. In an outdoor setting, non-galvanized screws and nails are almost certain to rust, which weakens the metal and will stain the wood.
Value and long-term enjoyment
Showing your deck a little TLC on a regular basis is well worth the time and monetary investment and will provide years of enjoyment. According to Remodeling magazine, a well-maintained wooden deck can recoup about 71.5 percent of the cost invested when a home is resold, which is more than most mid-range remodeling projects such as bathrooms (70 percent) or family room additions (53.9 percent).
Interested in adding a deck to your home? LightStream may be able to provide financial assistance.