Hard winters (like the one we've just sent packing) are tough on decks, so before you start enjoying yours, there are some important things you need to do to get it ready.
Safety is the top priority. People have been seriously injured and even killed due to unsafe decks, therefore it's imperative that you inspect and repair yours. Look for worn-out deck boards, stair treads, balusters and handrails, as well as missing or loose connections, corrosion of fasteners, rot, and cracks; be sure to hammer any nail heads that have popped up during the winter. It's important that your posts and headers are still solid and strong, and that you've used the right fasteners to ensure that your deck can support weight safely while also adhering to current Code standards. All of these issues can put anyone enjoying the deck at serious risk of injury. You can also take preventive measures; slow mold, moss, and rot by keeping bushes and trees cut at least 12" back from your deck, and by cleaning leaves and other debris off regularly.
Harsh winters cause the seal on your deck to wear faster than usual. If you're unsure of whether it's time to reseal your deck, splash some water on your deck; if it beads, your seal is still good, but if the wood absorbs it then your deck needs to be resealed.
Before you paint, stain or waterproof your deck, you need to clean it. If your deck is painted or stained, you also first need to strip it. These steps will greatly extend the life of your finish. There are deck washes available to suit all requirements and building materials, so use the one that is right for you and follow the directions on the package, then rinse your deck using your garden hose to ensure that you have a nice clean surface. Be careful pressure-washing your deck as the force of the water can be very damaging to wood and can significantly shorten the life of your deck. If you do use a pressure washer, use a fan-type nozzle instead of a pinpoint nozzle.
There are three options for finishing your deck: painting, staining, and waterproofing. While there are many options for outdoor paint, you will have to prepare, preserve and prime the wood first. It can be messy but does offer good protection for your wood. However, paint is not recommended for large horizontal areas of your deck which receive a lot of foot traffic or standing water as this will quickly wear-off the paint in those areas.
Staining the wood offers good protection from mold, rot and water. The darker pigmented stains offer a level of UV protection comparable to paint. Stains also allow you to see the wood's natural beauty, and are much easier to apply than paint. Though lighter stains do not have the overall longevity of paint, both dark and light stains will stand up to foot traffic and standing water much longer. Most stains contain waterproofing ingredients to seal you deck, however they do add some colour to your wood.
If you want to completely stick to the natural wood colour or just go over an exisiting stain or paint, a waterproofer will seal your deck and protect it against the elements without altering the wood's appearance. This has an overall shorter longevity than medium and darker wood stains.
For new decks, the wood needs to cure for two to three weeks before prepping it for finishing. If the deck gets rained on, it will need roughly four weeks to dry out before you can begin. Apply your finish in thin, even layers, and apply the second coat before the first is completely dry, otherwise the wood will not fully absorb it. An ideal day for sealing your deck is warm but not scorching hot, with no rain that day or for a couple afterwards. You should avoid finishing your deck in direct sunlight also, as it dries the sealant too quickly for the wood to absorb it.
After these steps, your deck is ready to decorate and enjoy! Add some comfy lawn furniture, some potted plants, outdoor lighting, maybe a barbecue, then sit back, put your feet up and welcome the summer in style!
Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald - June 12, 2014
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.