You’ve got a backyard wood deck, and you want to keep it looking good – or at the very least keep it in one piece.
Your enemies are mold, rot, and warping. Your allies are these tips for performing annual maintenance on your deck.
Let’s get started.
Assessing the Damage
Even pressure-treated wood can develop rot, so expect to inspect! Examine the entire deck, especially hard-to-reach areas like the underside of boards and stairs and the ledger (the board that attaches to the house).
Feel for soft or sagging spots, and use a screwdriver to pick at areas of concern to determine if the wood has gone soft.
Look for discolored areas caused by water stains – those boards may not be rotten yet, but they’re in danger and will need special attention.
A Screw Loose
To detect loose nails in your inspection, try dragging a rake across the deck and see if it catches on anything.
If it does, the board might be sound, but dampness has softened the wood near the nail.
Remove these failing fasteners and replace them with new nails.
If you’re unfortunate enough to find a completely rotten board or one that has been warped into an unstable concave shape, you’ll need a replacement.
Use a pry bar to remove the old board, and consider using rot-resistant wood to replace it if you can find one that will match your deck’s look.
If your boards are safe and sound, it’s time to clean. You have several options for getting rid of mold, mildew, dirt, and any other grime that’s built up.
A pressure washer will get the job done quickly and thoroughly, but be sure you know how to use it; excessive water pressure applied at the wrong angle can damage the surface of the wood.
A safer option is using a biodegradable cleaner like oxygen bleach applied with a stiff broom, followed by a blast from a standard hose.
Between the Cracks
The space between your deck boards can become clogged with leaves, dirt, and other debris.
Not only are these invaders unattractive, but they also invite water damage and rot when boards are exposed to the rain they soak up.
Use a putty knife to dig in and remove the offending material.
With failing boards replaced and all surfaces cleaned, you’re ready to finish up with a sealant.
If you’ve sealed in the last year or two, another coat may be unnecessary, but test but sprinkling some water and watching whether it beads on the surface or soaks in.
If it soaks, you’ll need to determine the right sealant to use, which will depend on the type of wood you have and the stressors you expect it to encounter – strong light, wood-burrowing insects, or high foot traffic.
Whichever you choose, wait for the deck to dry after washing, cover nearby plants and shrubs with clear plastic, suit up in protective gear like gloves and safety glasses, and prepare your sealant by stirring, not shaking.
You can then apply with a brush, roller, or sprayer. You may wish to follow up each coat with a roller or broom to clear puddles and work the sealant into the wood.
And you’re done! The backyard deck is cleaned, sealed, and ready to be enjoyed for another year.
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