How to Maintain a Deck

Get expert tips to improve the look of your deck and make it last longer.

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deck with table wide 2

How long has it been since you did a little maintenance on your deck? When was the last time you stained it? Well, let's take a few minutes to review some of the things you may want to consider doing to your deck to bring it back to life.

We all are under the impression that our decks will last forever; isn't that what pressure-treated lumber is all about? Well, folks, wood is wood. Even though pressure-treated lumber resists insects and decay, it's still vulnerable to moisture and the sun's rays. This includes other exterior woods like cedar and redwood. To keep it looking new and lasting longer, regular maintenance is necessary.

If your deck is older, and starting to look a little gray (who isn't?), a deck cleaner can be used to give it a fresher look. Deck cleaners come in bleach and non-bleach formulas. Either can remove surface and ground-in dirt. Bleach cleaners lighten the wood, while non-bleach ones gently remove dirt and grime without damaging the wood fibers or the wood's natural color, they are also friendlier to the environment and not as tough on bushes and plants.

To use a deck cleaner, always read the label; manufacturers do a lot of testing of their products and really know the best way to use the product.

Start by sweeping away all the leaves and other debris. Gently wash down the deck and the surrounding bushes and grass with a garden hose. Mix up a batch of cleaner (did you read that label?). If the wood is extremely dirty, use less water, especially for decks that have been neglected for a long time.

Using a roller, sprayer or a bucket and brush, apply the cleaner. Just remember to wear gloves to protect your hands. To help the cleaner work better, keep the deck wet while working. Let the cleaner set for 15 to 20 minutes. This gives the cleaner time to work on stains and grime. Then give the deck a good rinsing.

Now you're ready to apply a clear wood preservative or an exterior stain. Clear wood preservatives contain an UV protector. It will bring new life to the surface while protecting it from the elements. Clear wood preservatives leave the deck with a clear finish; it will not give any color to the deck. If you want to add color, use an exterior stain. You can choose from a solid or a semi-transparent. Deep-penetrating formulas are great for repelling water. Exterior stains are available as water-based or oil-based products.

To apply a preservative or stain, make sure you have cleaned the deck. Allow the deck to dry for two days after cleaning. Again, read the manufacturer's directions. And wear eye protection and gloves.

Cover all the surrounding areas with a cloth tarp. I never use plastic. Plastic doesn't breathe and could damage plant life. Then apply the wood finish with a roller or brush. Let the product set for about 20 minutes so that it will penetrate the wood. Then go back over the surface with a brush; this is called back brushing (who would have thought?). This will give it a more consistent finish.

Brush out any puddles to avoid shiny patches. I always apply a double coat for good coverage and protection. Then allow the stain or preservative to dry one to two days. Be sure to dispose of old rags and empty containers properly.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service)

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