These days, people are doing a lot more of their living outside the house. Whether it’s a Saturday morning hike at the local nature preserve or dinner served on the back patio, the call of the great outdoors is redefining modern living—and with good reason. Exposure to nature has been scientifically proven to boost memory, improve mental health and reduce stress levels, among other things.
That’s why it makes sense to keep your deck operating in tip-top shape. Here at Modernize, we’ve seen firsthand just how much longer a deck will last—and how much nicer it will look—with a little attention and some TLC. Some simple preventative steps, like regular resealing and cleaning, will keep yours looking lustrous all year long. Here’s what you can do annually to make sure yours is ready to handle anything you—or the elements—can throw at it.
Project: Deep Cleaning Your Deck
Frequency: As Often as Needed
Decks bare the brunt of the weather, which means that along with weatherproofing steps like resealing, they also need a good, clean sweep every once in awhile. Deep cleaning with a broom, scrub brush, or even a power washer is particularly useful in the late spring and fall when falling leaves, blossoms, and pollen give your porch a furry look. A couple of tips to follow if you’re going to get a power washer involved: keep the pressure levels on low to avoid stripping paint or stain off the boards, and never use a pressure washer on a composite deck. Select a commercial deck cleaner that’s appropriate for your decking (read the back of the label if you’re unsure). Opt for a commercial degreaser or mold treatment to spot clean stains, scrubbing them in by hand with a soft bristled brush. Last of all, let the deck dry thoroughly before using it—you don’t want any muddy footprints on your newly scrubbed boards!
Project: Sanding and Sealing Your Deck
Frequency: Every One to Two Years
Sanding and repainting, restaining, or resealing is the biggest maintenance task your deck requires. Luckily, though, you only have to perform each task every one or two years. The frequency depends on the type of finish you have: natural wood coated with sealer or toner needs an annual revisit, but you can usually get away with once every two years if you cover your deck with paint or stain that has a sealant included. The general process is much pretty the same no matter what kind of finish you choose, however. You’ll need to give the deck a deep clean with a pressure washer or hose and scrub brush, as described above. Once it’s sparkling clean and dry, use 80-grit sandpaper to sand the surface, then sweep off the excess sawdust. When painting, apply a coat of wood primer to the boards first and allow it to dry thoroughly. Next, apply a smooth, even coat of your chosen finish to the deck boards. Repeat as many times as necessary to get good coverage—you may have to apply multiple coats if you’re painting or staining. After that, your deck should be protected from water damage for another one to two years!
Project: Deep Cleaning Deck Furniture
Frequency: One to Two Times a Year
Outdoor furniture also needs to spend some time occasionally with a scrub brush to keep it looking polished and welcoming. The right treatment depends on the type of furniture. Some materials may be able to take abrasive cleaners better than others, so always read through the manufacturer’s care guide before going to town. However, most furniture can handle a light scrub with a soft-bristled brush and a gentle cleaner, such as mixture of liquid dish detergent and water. If the piece has intense mildewing or stains, however, your best bet may be to refinish it with a new coat of paint, especially when dealing with a fragile material, like wicker.
Project: Fixing Popped Nails, Cracked Boards, and Other Small Issues
Frequency: As Often as Needed
Decks occasionally need some closer attention, especially if they sustain any damage throughout the year. Large structural problems need to be handled by a professional deck builders, but most homeowners are savvy enough to replace the odd split board or popped nail. To replace a bent or loose nail, pull it loose from the boards and drive a new deck screw in its place, one that’s a just little bit longer than the original. To replace cracked or warped boards, use a jigsaw to cut out the old board, and insert a new piece of decking that matches the original boards. Take care that the new board spans at least two joists—this will prevent splitting in the future. To fix a small rotten section, chisel it out, and treat the whole area with wood preservative. If the rot is bigger than a silver dollar, however, you’ll need to replace the whole board.
Deck maintenance may not exactly be the most glamorous part of owning a home, but it’s relatively simple—and a little check-up every now and then is all you need to keep yours up to snuff all year long. Here’s to more outdoor dining, lounging, and lazing around!
About the Writer
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.