How to maintain your wood deck to avoid costly repair bills
When it comes to creating a welcoming space in your yard, nothing can beat a deck. In fact, many homeowners find their decks to be one of their favorite areas of the home — serving as a great place to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family or just sit back and listen to the birds chirping.
However, to keep your deck looking its best, you need to perform year-round maintenance. This can help you avoid cumulative and expensive damage to the area and keep your deck ready to enjoy throughout the year. This article will explain some major sources of deck damage and maintenance tips you can use to take care of this important part of your home.
The main causes of deck damage
A well-maintained deck can last for years to come, but decks are subjected to a variety of damages from the elements and natural world. There are four sources of damage, in particular, that you need to pay attention to in order to better protect your space:
- Sun damage: As the sun beats down on the deck throughout the year, UV rays can start to cause damage to the wood. It will initially cause fading of the wood but can inflict damage to the wood cells themselves over a longer period of time, causing them to become weak and brittle. The best fight against this damage comes from stains and sealants.
- Water damage: In addition to the sun beating down on the deck, precipitation and moisture can also cause damage to your deck. Having large puddles that sit on the wood or areas of the deck where moisture can sit and keep the boards damp for extended periods can cause the wood to rot. Sweeping off any buildup of wet leaves and clearing puddles after heavy rains can help combat this problem.
- Insect damage: Decks not only attract people interested in enjoying their yards. They can also attract insects. Various types of bugs will use the wood boards to create nests or burrow into the boards, including termites. Keeping your deck away from trees and shrubs and regularly checking the deck for signs of insects can help prevent this problem.
- Damage from furniture: Many homeowners will outfit their decks with outside furniture to make the space even more comfortable. However, deck furniture without pads on the bottoms of the legs can result in scuffs and scraps to the boards. These small nicks can easily leave the wood underneath exposed and provide a perfect opportunity for moisture to access the wood and begin the process of rotting the boards.
Deck maintenance by season
The best way to keep your deck ready for use and in peak condition involves taking care of it throughout the seasons. Knowing the type of care the wood needs throughout different weather conditions can help you make the proper preparations. This also allows you to correct any problems before they become major issues.
Spring deck maintenance
You may want to start home improvement projects when spring arrives, but don’t forget about taking care of your deck.
Begin by giving the deck a thorough cleaning. Using a pressure washer can help you spray away any dirt and debris that may have accumulated. This dirt can hold onto moisture, which increases the stress on the deck. Pressure washing can help you get rid of it in a matter of seconds.
Using a sprayer and deck-friendly cleaning solution can also help you give the deck surface a quality wipe-down and get rid of any mildew that might have started to grow. Keep in mind that bleach doesn’t work well as a deck cleaner. This harsh chemical can damage the decking boards, cause discoloration and even make it harder for a stain or sealer to cling to the board.
Take the time to give the deck a thorough inspection, as well. Look at the decking materials closely, checking for signs of cracks or rot that may have begun over the winter. This includes looking at the top surface, the deck supports, joists, any steps and the railing for any signs of damage. You’ll want to go through this checklist even if you have a new deck.
Your wooden deck should also have a deck stain or sealer that helps protect it from bad weather throughout the year. These can come in several varieties, such as semi-transparent stains or clear sealers. As you complete your deck cleaning and inspection, look closely at the sealer or stain to see if there are any cracks or areas where it has begun to wear off. If you see such areas, dedicate a day to sanding and refinishing them.
Summer deck maintenance
As you move into summer and the months of heavy usage, continue to take steps to protect your deck whenever possible. Although your deck might be made of treated wood, you still need to help protect it with regular cleanups. This means clearing it off following storms to prevent leaves or other debris and big puddles from sitting on the wood. A garden hose will make this simple to DIY. If you notice the development of any mildew in the corners, for example, don’t wait to take care of the problem.
Before you use your deck furniture, put pads at the bottom of the pieces so they don’t scratch the wood. As you move around the space and regularly adjust the furniture, you don’t want to leave the wood open to more opportunities for scratches.
Throughout the summer, continue to keep an eye on the deck and watch for signs of insects. If you didn’t finish restaining worn areas of the deck or if you notice the development of new scratches, take the time to make the proper repairs to protect the wood.
Fall deck maintenance
Now, it’s time to begin preparing the deck for the incoming cooler weather. As the leaves begin to fall, make sure you stay on top of clearing them off the deck to prevent moisture from getting trapped. This is also when you should trim back bushes that grow around the deck. Remember that you don’t want to have too much shrubbery around the deck, encouraging insects and pests to use your deck as a spot to dig holes or build nests. You may also find it helpful to use a power washer to give the deck another thorough cleaning.
You may want to do a fall inspection that involves checking to see that all deck screws, fasteners and nails are properly secured and have not begun to pop up above the deck boards. The last thing you want is for your snow shovel to catch on the deck during the winter.
Finally, at the end of the fall season, move the deck furniture inside. This not only protects the furniture but also prevents the deck from becoming discolored over the winter due to moisture buildup.
Winter deck maintenance
Throughout the winter, you’ll want to continue to ensure that your deck remains clear of excess moisture. On snowy or icy days, use a shovel to remove the moisture as quickly as possible.
If the deck freezes, avoid using rock salt to melt the ice. The salt can dry out the natural moisture of the wood, leading to damage. Fortunately, there are de-icing liquids with ingredients like magnesium chloride or potassium acetate that can help you safely melt the ice while still protecting your deck.
Keep your home systems protected with Cinch
Decks help you enjoy the outdoor spaces of your home; however, you’ll need to take the time to maintain them if you want to keep using them for years to come.
To protect both the inside and outside of your home, turn to a trusted home warranty provider like Cinch Home Services. While there is not currently a Cinch plan that covers outdoor decks, we do offer several home warranties that can help cover certain major appliances and built-in systems, ensuring your home is comfortable and cared for year-round. When you have a home warranty from Cinch, you can worry less about unexpected breakdowns and spend more time enjoying your home, especially the deck.