Punxsutawney Phil promises only six more weeks of the cold snowy weather.
As I write this it is once again snowing outside the office window, yet everyone seems to be looking towards the upcoming spring. People are already talking about planning gardens, cookouts, and the like. If you are dreaming of life on your deck this spring and summer, now is the time to plan ahead for annual maintenance. Skipping a day of TLC for your deck in the spring can end up costing you big money in the long run.
Before you make a plan of attack you should walk on and around your deck looking for problem spots that need to be addressed. It is very important not to forget to inspect the underside of your deck as well, the most dangerous damage is usually hidden there. As you conduct your inspection look for rot, mildew, nails or screws that have worked their way out, loose railings, and any other dangers or eye soars that may be lurking.
Rot is the bane of all wood deck owners. Beyond just making your deck look run down it can be a looming danger to you and your family. The most important place to look for rotting wood is where your deck connects to your home. If this area shows significant damage it may be time to call in a professional. Every year decks separating from buildings cause many injuries and even some deaths. Another area that is a common place to find rot is where wood touches the ground. Extra attention should be paid to stair stringers and ground posts.
If you are finding significant damage due to rot you may be wondering if your deck needs to be replaced. If there is significant structural damage, you may need to build a new deck. There are several tell tail signs that your deck is on its way out. First, if the railing posts are week or loose it may be a sign of a larger issue. Secondly, nails and screws not holding when you try to secure into the frame members is another sign that the main structure of your deck has exceeded its “expiration date”. Lastly, visible signs of rot to the outer edged of the deck frame and if it is spongey to walk on are both signs of a dangerous deck. Of course when in doubt call in a professional to inspect and make a recommendation in regards to your outdoor living space’s future.
Assuming that your deck is not a looming death trap, next thing on the list is cleaning. You may want to skip this step, but a thorough cleaning will prevent rot and mildew from becoming a problem in the first place. First thing you need to do is remove everything from your deck, ensuring you don’t drag items across the deck boards leading to additional damage. Next clean between the deck boards with a putty knife to ensure leaves or debris are not trapped between the boards. After that, using a stiff bristled broom, sweep away as much dirt, dust, leaves and debris as possible. Be sure to focus your efforts along the edges, corners and anywhere else build up may occur. If you used rock salt or other ice melt on your deck during the winter, DO NOT skip this next step. Power washing will get your deck looking its best and ready for the New Year. However, there are many things you need to keep in mind, first more power is not always better. A pressure washer used improperly can do major damage to your deck. Be cautious when using one. Consult the manufacture of your deck stain or sealer as to what kind of cleaning solvents to select for this job. Avoid using bleach or other caustic fluids that could damage your deck or landscaping. Soda Crystals are gaining popularity as an “eco Friendly” option. Once again, make sure you follow the manufactures directions.
Once your deck is safe and clean, now is the time to ponder the question “to stain or not to stain?” Industry professionals recommend re-staining every year and a half to three years. This depends on the amount of direct sun light your deck gets. The more exposure to direct UV rays your deck gets the more often you will need to stain it. If you wait too long it could lead to damage, dry and cracked boards that you will then have to replace.
If you follow all of these tips you will greatly extend the life of your deck. Which will in turn save you money down the line. More importantly you will have a safe and beautiful place to spend time with your friends and family when the weather is beautiful. Let the cook outs begin!