An outdoor deck provides great comfort and luxury for spring and summer outdoor entertaining. But, even the most well-constructed deck needs to be well-maintained and inspected every so often. Wood decks require the most maintenance, but even composite decks need to be checked. Follow these steps to ensure a safe deck season for your family.
INSPECT YOUR DECK
At least once per year, conduct your own inspection of the deck to identify problems and prepare for the season.
– Sweep it clear of debris, furniture, toys and so on. You want a clean surface to check out, and sometimes furniture can get in the way of what you need to see. Debris and leaves that remain in the same spot for a long time can contribute to mold.
– Carefully check all the nails, screws and other fasteners. Any fastener that is loose, corroded or rusted needs to be tightened or repaired.
– Check all railing, banisters and stairs for stability and tripping hazards. If a rail or banister can move when you push against it, or a stair has loose boards, hire a professional to repair it.
– Inspect all the boards for weakness or decay. In particular, look for small holes in wood boards; they can indicate insect infestation. If you can push a screwdriver into the wood, it's too weak and should be replaced.
DECK CLEANING AND SEALING
Wood decks can last for decades, but they need to be regularly cleaned and sealed to stay in top condition. Wear and tear, rain and sun take their toll. A dirty deck poses many problems. Not only can it make the deck less attractive, the slippery surface creates a safety risk. Mold and mildew will cause long-term damage if not removed.
If you're not sure if your deck needs to be resealed, sprinkle some water on the surface. If the water beads up, your sealant is still effective. If it seeps into the wood, you need to reseal the deck.
Every few years, hire a professional to perform a cleaning and sealing process. The money you pay will be well worth it for the extended lifespan of your deck.
A professional should use the correct power washing settings to avoid splintering the wood. Also make sure that they use cleaning chemicals that are recommended by the manufacturer for your particular type of wood.
Even if you don't get it resealed, a deck can use a good cleaning at least once per year. For smaller decks, you can do the work with a long-handled scrub brush. A larger deck will require a pressure washing job.
When you're cleaning and sealing your deck, also consider restaining it. Wood stain loses color over time as it accumulates damage and debris. Removing the grime will restore some of the color, but after a few years, a new coat of stain will brighten it up.
Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie's List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.