By their very nature, all decks and porches require routine maintenance and repair. Buffeted by the elements and under a constant barrage of foot traffic, tricycles, and pets, it's no wonder these need constant attention.
If your deck is getting on in years, it may look a little the worse for wear-and no wonder. Decking is especially vulnerable to damage: Rain and sun beat down on it; dirt and debris get ground into it; the spaces between the deck boards may fill with debris, impeding proper drainage; shaded areas below planters and deck furniture create perfect environments for mildew growth. If this is the state of your deck, don't despair: Sometimes a good cleaning, followed up with some regular, simple maintenance, is all that's required to make an older deck serviceable for many more years.
If you're facing more serious problems, such as warped decking, rotted posts, or joists or beams that need replacing, we also can help you.
One of the simplest ways to keep a deck in pristine condition is to clean it regularly. We recommend that you follow the sequence shown here at a minimum of twice a year—once in the early spring and once in late fall. Cleaning a deck like this is analogous to flossing your teeth: You've got to get between deck boards, railings, and balusters to remove debris that can cause rot and decay, just as food trapped between teeth can cause tooth decay and cavities.
This sequence is simple and effective. The entire job, including optional pressure-washing (which we highly recommend), will take less than a few hours. It's time well spent to keep your deck structurally sound and looking new. Right after we've cleaned your deck, we also recommend that we give it a thorough visual inspection. Look for popped deck board nails or screws and any loose deck boards, railing, or balusters, and tighten or replace them as necessary.
Sooner or later, wood's natural enemies—decay-causing organisms, insects, and weather—will attack any wooden deck. However, treating a deck with preservatives and/or finishes can add years to its useful life. Even heart-grade redwood and cedar, disease resistant as they are, benefit from treatment more than enough to repay the cost.
How often you need to reapply a finish to your deck will depend on its finish and on the local weather conditions. Decks exposed to extreme climates (such as the cold winters of Minnesota or the hot summers of Arizona) require more attention than a deck in a temperate region.
Likewise, the type of finish you use will affect the frequency of maintenance. Transparent water sealants often need to be refreshed every year, whereas solid-color stains may need attention less frequently. Note that although most composite decking doesn't require a finish, many of them will accept one—just realize that once you apply one, the finish will need regular attention.
The major types of preservatives and finishes, giving their most effective uses.
Cleaners. There are a number of chemical products available (often referred to as deck cleaners, brighteners, or deck wash) that can make quick work of renewing tired-looking deck boards. All of these products typically contain a mild acid, either sodium hypoclorite or oxalic acid, that dissolves dirt and grime and chemically lightens the wood. Most can be sprayed on and will do their work without scrubbing- simply hose down the deck after waiting 10 to 15 minutes, and the deck is good as new.
Finishes When it comes time to protect the surface of a deck, you're faced with two basic choices: You can apply a water sealer or apply one of the many types of finishes. The type of finish you choose will depend on how much wood grain you want to see and what kind of protection you're after. To see the most grain, use a clear wood finish. Select one with UV blockers to protect the wood from the sun. For less visible grain, choose a semitrans- parent stain. To hide the grain, use a solid-color stain.
Water Sealers The most popular finish used to protect a deck is a transparent water sealer. Water sealers are penetrating-oil formulas that soak down into porous materials and create a moisture barrier that still allows the wood to breathe. Most sealers dry clear and allow the wood to weather naturally. Water sealers are easy to apply with an ordinary garden sprayer and can be "refreshed" with periodic applications. (If you see a dark stain on your deck after it rains, it's time for another coat.)
Periodically, your decking will require some minor repairs. Wood tends to swell and contract over time, causing nails to work loose, or "pop," so that their heads project above the surface of the deck boards. Resetting popped nails is a necessary part of regular maintenance for most deck owners. We will punch the nail heads flush or slightly below the surface of the decking. If some nails pop frequently, we will replace them with galvanized deck screws.
You may find that some boards are not level with those next to them, and need to be raised; and some deck boards may be cupped, warped, or rotten. We can help you raise a deck board and deal with a cupped board.
If a board is only slightly cupped, we may be able to salvage it, rather than replacing it. However, if cupping is severe, or if a board is warped or rotten, you'll have to replace it. To do this, we first have to take up the board; pull out the nails or remove the screws. Or, if nails have been used and you have easy access to the underside of your deck, we can hit the board from underneath with a hand-drilling hammer. Next, cut a replacement board to the appropriate length and, using a nail as a spacer , fasten the board in place.
Repairing works samples: