Tips to Keep Your Deck in Top Shape

From fading and scratches to staining and screws, here are ten tips for keeping your deck safe and stylish.

Thanks to yearly quick fixes, the deck of this rustic Georgia cabin is ready for outdoor entertaining from the beginning of spring through the end of fall.

Uncovered decks are subject to damage from fallen tree limbs. Depending on the intensity of the impact, limbs can crack, chip or completely puncture decking boards, rendering them extremely unsafe. To properly replace a damaged decking plank, remove it, cut a new plank to size, then install using decking screws or nails. Allow at least four weeks for the replacement plank to acclimate and dry out before adding stain and sealant.

Uprooted nails can be hazardous, both for tripping and causing harm to bare feet. Decks intended for use by small children and pets are best fit for screw-down installation in which decking screws are drilled through each plank, then into joists for a tight, long-lasting fit.

Countersinking is a term used to describe adding nails or screws to wood surfaces with their heads sitting slightly below the surface. While screws are less likely to become uprooted from the decking planks, it's a common occurrence for nails. Once a nail starts to stick up from the surface, consider countersinking it, by hitting it with a hammer until it's flush with the surface, then place a nail set tool on top of the nail and hit it with a hammer until slightly recessed.

Over time, boards can warp from exposure to water, too much direct sunlight, or from shifts in a deck's structure. As the warping progresses, planks can start to turn upwards, creating a hazardous situation for tripping. To keep your deck safe, it's best to replace warped planks completely, allowing at least four weeks for the plank to acclimate and dry out before adding stain and sealant.

When decks are built from scratch, contractors may offer different pricing for labor based on the method of installation. Nailed plank installation is often the most affordable. Screwed planks require slightly more labor time and cost, but it's worth the investment since screws are less likely to uproot compared to nails or brads.

Uncovered decks are significantly more prone to sun fading than covered decks. Depending on how quickly stain and sealer evaporate over time, it's best to plan on re-staining and sealing an uncovered deck every two years. The best time of year to re-stain decks are in the spring and summer months when temperatures remain above 50 degrees Farenheit and the sun's rays are strong and direct.

Repairs or modifications made to nearby railings, porticos or pergolas are likely to result in discolored surfaces. In order to keep all areas of the deck cohesive, lightly sand any newly exposed or added surfaces with fine grit sanding pads, then apply stain in the same shade used on all nearby surfaces. For an exact match, consider diluting the stain with water, gently testing it out on the raw surface.

To seamlessly blend existing and replacement planks, try creating a custom mix of stains. Here, a light blonde stain is mixed with dark walnut to recreate the exact tint created by months of sun fading. This is a time-saving alternative to sanding and re-staining the entire surface of the deck.

Due to heavy foot traffic and movement of furniture, decking planks are prone to deep scratches. To camouflage scratches, apply a generous amount of stain directly to the affected surface with a stain applicator or a damp cloth, then quickly wipe away any excess.

During the fall and winter months, leaves can attract pests to decks and leave stains and impressions on their surfaces. Leaf blowers are excellent investments for keeping decks clear of leaves, drastically cutting down on the amount of time needed for proper upkeep with a basic broom. Corded electric leaf blowers are the most user-friendly and average between $50 and $75. Gas-powered blowers are slightly higher in price and require more handling and do-it-yourself skills.

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