Decks are one of the most popular and well-loved home additions in the country, and it's easy to understand why. Whether you're hosting a daytime gathering, hanging out by the pool, entertaining on a warm summer night, or simply relaxing in the fresh air with a good book, a deck provides the perfect venue. The versatility and practicality of a deck can plummet, however, if it isn't properly maintained. Suddenly all those delightful activities you used to enjoy on your deck become riddled with splinters or – even worse – components of your deck fail, posing a serious safety hazard. When faced with the consequences of neglecting your deck, a little maintenance here and there is a small price to pay.
The North American Deck and Railing Association estimates that there are about 40 million decks in the United States that are 20 years old or more. Maintenance for older decks is extremely important, as outdoor wood installations of this age are much more likely to be structurally compromised. Even if your deck is only a few years old, though, it is a good idea to begin a regular maintenance routine now to increase its lifespan and ensure good function for years to come.
While there are a host of tasks that all fall under the heading of "wood deck maintenance," here are the five that no deck owner should ever fail to perform:
Splinters are no fun, and warped or cracked decking can lead to even more splinters.
When the weather starts getting warm, it's time to give your deck a good cleaning. Although it might not sound like a necessity, cleaning a wood deck removes dirt, debris, moss, leaves, pine needles, and other items that, if left in place, will trap moisture and prematurely age the wood. Remove any debris that's trapped between boards with a butter knife or putty knife, then use a deck-cleaning solution (readily available in any hardware store or home-improvement center) and a scrub brush to remove dirt from the deck's surface. It is recommended that this cleaning be performed on an overcast day so the cleaning agent won't evaporate too quickly. This is also a perfect opportunity to inspect around and under the deck for any obvious signs of rot that pose an immediate safety hazard.
2.Splinter and Warp Repair
Splinters are no fun, and warped or cracked decking can lead to even more splinters. Although you might not need to do it every year, a good time to fill cracks and sand down warped and splintering boards is after the wash and before the seal. After your freshly washed deck has been allowed to dry for 48 hours, pull out your plane and power sander and knock those splinters out before deck season is in full swing.
3.Seal It Up
Unlike composite, PVC, or tropical hardwood decks, a traditional wood deck should be sealed once a year to help it reach its full life expectancy. After your deck's been washed and your splinters have been sanded away, have your seal of choice ready to go.
Give your deck a thorough inspection. Check posts and supporting members for discoloration and other signs of rot. It is particularly important to pay attention to any wood components that are close to sources of moisture as well as those that are 6 inches from the ground or closer. Small patches of rot that are smaller than an inch and a half in diameter can often be scraped out and treated with a wood preservative; more substantial signs of rot will require replacing the offending component. Don't forget to inspect railings and surface boards to make sure they are firmly in place.
5.Give Your Deck a Happy Home
In many cases, the things in the immediate vicinity of the deck are the cause of premature aging rather than the deck itself. Trim back bushes, plants, and shrubs that are growing near the deck; these can not only trap moisture near important structural components, they can hide (or provide a hiding place for) unwanted guests like roaches, termites, and even larger critters, such as skunks. Have overhanging trees trimmed as needed and don't allow leaves, grass clippings, or other debris pile up near your deck's supports. And don't forget to keep gutters and downspouts clean and free of debris! This will not only help divert water to areas where it won't harm your deck, but it will also reduce the likelihood of mosquitoes breeding near your favorite outdoor hang-out spot.