A well-tended deck sets the stage for decades of lasting memories. It’s a place where family and friends can gather to share meals, reconnect with the outdoors, and relax. Decks can also greatly increase the curb appeal and value of a home.
Despite the rise of composite material construction, many homeowners still prefer wood decking— it’s still the most affordable and popular decking on the market. And there’s no question that traditional timber brings a tranquil energy to deck-related activities, as well as a timeless natural quality that others don’t.
Though they may feel timeless, wood decks are indeed more susceptible to the wear and tear of time, weather, and use than composite decking. Homeowners must provide regular care to preserve the lifespan of their decks. Follow the Golden Rule of deck maintenance, “Respect your deck and your deck will respect you.”
The good news is that many of these maintenance to-dos can be done either for free or without breaking the bank.
Do the Research
All woods are not created equal. Some types need more care than others and therefore require a different maintenance schedule or more intense care. For example, treated lumber is the most common and inexpensive type of wood decking, but is more susceptible to cracking and splintering over time. Cedar or redwood decks tend to be more weather-resistant, therefore requiring less repair, but are more costly upfront. Tropical hardwoods are the most expensive but offer a luxurious feel and unique beauty for homeowners. It’s important to understand the wood type in your deck before you start on regular maintenance work.
Don’t Forget to Inspect
An annual inspection of your deck’s surfaces and structure can help you identify potential issues before they become safety hazards. Sweeping the deck first clears the path for a closer inspection. You should check for raised nails or screws, holes in boards, warped boards, and any hardware rust. Consider replacing raised nails with wood screws. Inspect boards, beams, and posts for early signs of rot. If there are holes in the wood, consider picking up an inexpensive wood filler product from your hardware store.
Do Clean It Annually
It’s not too late to do that deep deck cleaning yet this summer. Cleaning practices can vary—from the gentle stream of a garden hose to power washing. While using a power washer can be fast and effective, be cautious with the water pressure level as it can damage the wood. Before rushing out to buy a gallon of cleaning chemicals, consider a more environmentally-friendly approach. Mold and mildew on wood surfaces can be cleaned with a simple bucket, a few rags, and a solution made from water and baking soda, vinegar, or borate treatment.
Don’t Put Off Refinishing
Refinishing your deck is a bigger project to take on, but one that doesn’t need to be done more than every 2-3 years. Refinishing a deck is a multistep process that involves scraping off flaking stain or dirt, sanding, and applying wood stain or sealant. Doing this project yourself will take a few days depending on the size of the deck, but the tools required to do the job won’t strain your bank account. A simple paint scraper, vacuum, orbital sander, some sandpaper, and a high-quality sealant will do the heavy lifting. You just need to supply the elbow grease.
Do Remove, Replace, and Rearrange Furnishings
Did you know that many rugs and mats absorb moisture? Even outdoor rugs aren’t impervious to wet and harsh weather. Replacing these rugs with proper water-resistant mats or removing them entirely will save your wood deck from serious water damage. Rearrange your patio furniture and move around the grill or planters every year. Why? Prolonged sunlight on certain areas of the deck will cause discoloration in the wood.
If you’re a homeowner with a wood deck or are considering adding one to your home, these do’s and don’ts are free and/or inexpensive ways to make your deck stand the test of time. It’ll take some upkeep, but with regular tending, you’ll enjoy a more beautiful, safe wood deck for years to come.