Spring is around the corner and that means that as the temperature increases, so will the amount of time you will want to spend outside. When you walk outside on your deck, do you see an inviting space that is ready for your next BBQ? If your like most people your deck is need of a little TLC. Below we have outlined a few simple steps to point you in the right direction on how to make your deck safer and more enjoyable.
Below is a list of some of the most common wood deck maintenance tips and when you should perform them.
- Clean your deck - When most people hear this they automatically go to the nearest hardware store or big box and buy the most powerful pressure washer they can find. While using a pressure washer can help it is not he most important tool that you need to clean your deck. The truth is a good high quality deck wash like Olympic or Behr will do the trick. Take a garden pump sprayer and apply the deck cleaner directly to the deck surface and let sit for 5-10 min. You can use a stiff bristle brush to aggitate any stubborn mold or mildew areas. After 10 min use your garden hose or pressure washer to remove the deck cleaner. Now is the best time to move on to step 2.
- Stain or seal your deck - Some people get confused on the difference between sealing and staining. The reality is with either one you are sealing the deck, just a stain has a tint to it to add some color. Most manufactures recommend that that should be done on an annual basis to protect the wood. A good rule of thumb to use is to go on your deck after it rains and if you see water beading up on the surface then it is getting protected and if you don't see the water beading then it is probably time to re-apply. A good time of year to do this is in the Spring time usually after the pollen season since you will likely be cleaning your deck anyways. Always follow manufactures specifications on application of and a stain or sealer. You can find a number of options in colors or tints to suit the desired look of your house. Top brands like TWP, Behr, and Sikkens are good places to start.
- Check your deck (for safety) - NADRA (North American Decking and Railing Association) designates May as Deck Safety month, but any month is good to check the safety of your structure. Deck failures usually happen as a result of too much load (weight) on the deck surface which causes either the support posts or the attachment at the house to fail. Check these key areas of your deck to make sure your deck is ready for your next party.
- Ledger attachment at house
- Ledger attachment at the house - This should have either larger 1/2" lag bolts or 1/2" bolts with a nut and washer. Sometimes the nut and washer is located on the inside of the house. Take a 1/2" wrench and tighten each one of these to assure that the ledger is attached well to the house. If you only see nails, then either add lag bolts or carriage bolts to the deck every 12" or call a professional.
- Joist hangers - Each on of the structural joists should have a joist hanger (metal bracket) supporting it with a U shape underneath. This makes sure that each joist is relying on more than just nails to stay in place.
- Support posts- These can be either wood or metal. If they are wood check for straightness or large cracks more than half way deeper than the wood itself and check for rotting wood at the base near the ground. If this is metal, check for rust formation at the bottom of the post near the ground.
- Handrail - Check to make sure that all of your balusters (usually at 2x2 or metal) are securely fastened to the rail. Your handrail will be supported usually by a wood 4x4 posts. Make sure that is has either bolts with a nut and washer or a lag screw. This should have more than just nails.
- Decking - Look for rotting or splitting boards and nail pops. Boards that have any wood rot (usually at the ends of the deck) should be replaced. Nail pops can be hammered down and set below the surface of the deck board with a nail punch. Additional screws may be added for additional hold down.
Most of these items should be done on a annual to semi-annual basis. If you have any concerns after inspecting your deck you should call a professional to look at the deck. Many design-build firms do not do deck maintenance so you are best to check with a handyman or deck repair specialist unless you are looking to start with a new deck and design.
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