For many homeowners, a deck provides the opportunity for outdoor enjoyment and entertainment. Whether it’s grilling hamburgers, or enjoying a nice cold drink as the sun sets, a deck offers the perfect place for enjoying the outdoors.
While most homeowners look forward to enjoying good times on their deck, few realize the level of maintenance a deck requires or the different requirements of the various woods that are used to build decks! In a recent publication, an outdoor living magazine rated the maintenance requirements of different areas of your home and wood decks were rated as the 2nd highest maintenance area…right after your lawn and garden! Owning and maintaining a deck is a subject that every homeowner should be familiar with to avoid some very unpleasant surprises in the future.
Most homeowners only consider the condition of their deck when they happen to be using it. In reality, you deck is exposed to water, temperature extremes, and environmental contaminants every hour of every day…24 X 7! As a result, your deck requires a considerable amount of attention whether you’re using it…or not. Many homeowners only realize this when faced with expensive repair and replacement costs.
We strongly recommend considering a professional contractor to provide these services. A professional contractor provides a very high level of experience, and has access to products which are unavailable to most homeowners. Additionally, keep in mind that even the best conventional deck maintenance products will only provide 2 years of protection for your deck, and will need to be stripped and re-applied. Only Seal Rx provides a permanent solution for your deck!
Minimal deck care for all decks includes an annual inspection and cleaning to identify any wood failure and remove the environmental contaminants that have accumulated over the past year. The annual inspection should include the following:
- Remove and replace boards that are showing signs of failure or insect damage.
- Sand rough or splintered boards.
- Re-set nails and screws.
- Trim shrubs that are closer than 4” to the deck.
After completing the annual inspection, it’s time to spruce the deck up with a good cleaning. The weapon of choice for deck cleaning is a good pressure washer, but special care should be used when using water under high pressure on wood. Pressure washers that are available from local home improvement centers are capable of more than 2,000 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure. While this may appeal to the more “manly” users, too much pressure will cause permanent damage to your wood deck! As a result, special care should be used to insure that no more than 900 – 1,000 psi is used for cleaning your deck, less in softer woods such as cedar and redwood.
Begin cleaning your deck by using a pump-type sprayer to apply a cleaning solution. Cleaning solutions are available from your local home improvement center, or you can use conventional household cleaners such as OxyClean. Use of bleach is strongly discouraged. Apply the cleaning solution to a manageable work area, allow it to set for 10 – 15 minutes, then rinse with a pressure washer.
When using a pressure washer, take special care to use a tip which provides the widest fan possible. It’s a good idea to practice on some scrap wood, or a part of your deck which is less noticeable, to improve your technique prior to starting on the main part of the deck. Take special care to keep the tip at least 3 – 4 inches from the wood, and use a constant sweeping motion to avoid streaks. Placing the tip too close to the wood will result in damage to the wood which cannot be easily corrected…be careful!
When using a pressure washer on your deck, be sure to let the cleaning solutions do the work…not the pressure washer! If you don’t get the desired results the first time, try a second application and let the cleaner sit a little longer. Using too much pressure washer usually means damage to the wood. Be patient with the cleaning solutions and let them do the work.
As an alternative to using a pressure washer, many homeowners prefer to use a garden hose with a spraying attachment and a good stiff brush. This technique words well…but requires significantly more elbow grease and patience. Whichever technique you prefer, keep in mind that you will need to do it again next year.
After rinsing the deck, it’s time to apply a deck brightener. Brighteners are usually mildly acidic solutions that restore your deck’s pH levels, resulting in a more natural appearance. Apply the deck brightener as you did the cleaning solution, after 10 minutes rinse with a garden hose.
Cedar Deck Care/Redwood Deck Care
Some woods used on decks require a little more TLC than others due to the softer nature of the wood, and increased tannin content. Cedar and redwood decks are typical examples. Cedar and redwood decks are used because of their beautiful coloration. That dramatic color comes from the amount of tannins in the wood. When working with high tannin content wood, and soft woods, there are a few more considerations to keep in mind. First, the tannins turn very dark from exposure to air which results in an unattractive grey deck.
Although these woods are typically more resistant to rot, they will rot! During the annual inspection be sure to check the wood carefully for signs of rot, and replace these boards immediately.
Cleaning these woods takes extra care to avoid damaging the soft wood. When using a pressure washer, take special care to keep the tip farther from the wood and move the sweeping motion a little faster. Too much pressure will damage the wood very quickly.
The final step of using a deck brightener is a requirement with these woods. A deck brightener is required to restore the beauty of high tannin woods.
Your deck is now clean, and it’s time to seal. There are a number of conventional sealing stains available at your local home improvement or paint store. The choices and performance claims can be a little confusing…even intimidating. When deciding which product to use, start with the assumption that they will only last a maximum of 2 years! No matter what claim they make, the reality of all these products is that they will fail within 1 – 2 years. That information makes your decision much simpler! Now you just need to decide which one will provide the look you want for the least amount of work. It’s really that simple! Oil-based products will be the easiest to remove in 2 years when it’s time to do it all again…but application is a little more tedious, and clean up is more difficult. Water-based products are very difficult to remove, but easier to apply and clean up.
Many homeowners want a wet wood look sealer for their deck. These are high gloss sealers that leave the deck with a “shiny” finish…like wet wood. While many conventional exterior wood sealers provide a slight sheen, high gloss sealers (or wet wood look) are strongly discouraged. These sealers inhibit the wood’s ability to dry, resulting in significant problems with wood rot. Additionally, these sealers are extremely difficult to remove. As a result, using any high gloss sealer for a deck is discouraged in the strongest terms possible.
Keep in mind that the process described for cleaning your deck should be repeated at least once each year, and sealing with conventional sealers will need to be repeated at least every 2 years…if not annually. Only Seal Rx provides a permanent seal for your deck that will preserve your wood forever…and is backed with a 25 year warranty. For more information, call us at (913) 390-0600.
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