You may make wonderful memories with family and friends on your deck throughout the year, but your use of this space requires you to keep the deck properly maintained. Over the course of a year and especially during the harsh winter months, the deck can take a beating. Typically, a wooden deck requires annual maintenance, and the best time of year to address maintenance needs is during the spring before you begin regularly using it during the warm weather season.
Remove the Vegetation
Before you can refinish and stain your deck, you need to properly prepare the surface. As a first step, you should remove all vegetation that has crept up through the boards or near the side of the deck. This will enable you to quickly and easily apply stain in a uniform fashion. It also may prevent unnecessary damage to the wood that may be caused by the vegetation. Remember that some pests may be more likely to damage your deck if vegetation is abundant and is touching the wood. Vegetation will continue to grow around the wood, so remember to keep it trimmed back throughout the year for the protection of your deck.
Power Wash the Surface
After you have thoroughly addressed the situation of vegetation growing between or near the wood slats and railing of your deck, you are ready to power wash the surface. Some people will wait to power wash their deck until after they have addressed the following step, which is to repair or replace damaged boards. However, when you thoroughly clean the surface beforehand, you may be able to see damage that may otherwise be hidden by a thick layer of dirt or debris. When power washing your deck, remember to choose the right stream power to avoid damaging the deck. A smart idea is to test the power of the stream on a very small area that is not highly visible.
Repair or Replace Boards
Once the deck is clean, you can inspect it for signs of damage. This damage may be from general exposure to the elements, pests or pets chewing on the wood or other factors. Some boards may simply be rough and require sanding. When boards are heavily splintered or when you are concerned about their structural integrity, it is best to replace boards. When replacing your deck’s boards, use the same type of wood that is used throughout the deck to ensure that the wood accepts the stain in the same fashion. It is also wise to at least gently sand the entire surface of the deck before applying stain. This will remove any remaining stain from last year so that the wood accepts the new stain. After taking these steps, it is reasonable and advisable to wash the wood again and to allow it to dry before staining it. Rather than power washing it, you may be able to rinse the deck with a regular garden hose.
Apply Your Stain
When you think about deck maintenance, you may primarily think about re-staining it. However, you can see that the preparatory steps are more time-consuming and are essential to the finished result of your efforts. Depending on the size of your deck and the number of coats that you apply, staining may only take a few hours or less. The preparatory steps, however, may take several days or longer in some cases. Remember to select a weather-resistant stain that will hold up well to the elements over the next year. In addition, allow the stain to thoroughly dry before placing furniture or other items on it. In a high humidity climate, it may take substantially longer for the stain to dry.
Your deck is a wonderful addition to your home, and it extends your living and entertaining space to the outdoors. Protecting your deck from weather-related damage and keeping it looking great are top priorities, and you will need to devote regular effort to deck maintenance annually for the best results. A smart idea is to set aside at least one to two full days to complete this project, but less time may be required if you have a smaller deck. Remember to choose a time when weather conditions are most ideal for this task.