Are you considering having a wood deck built? You should understand everything there is to know about deck maintenance before you do. An attractive price up front could mean considerable time, money and elbow grease maintaining your deck. You might be wise to pay a little more for composite decking materials. They need very little maintenance and look great for 20 or more years.
Maybe you already own a deck. You’re pretty sure you know what to do when it comes to maintenance and upkeep, but you just want to be sure. Your know-it-all neighbor says you’re doing it all wrong. He has you wondering if maybe you could learn a thing or two about deck maintenance that could protect your investment.
Either way, you know it can’t hurt to have a veteran deck builder share decades of maintenance knowledge with you. His expertise building, cleaning and maintaining decks could save you considerable money and frustration over the life of your deck. We’re here to help.
Here’s everything you need to know about deck maintenance, regardless what decking material you choose.
Many homeowners choose pressure-treated lumber as a decking material. It’s the least expensive wood, so it’s attractive to a lot of first time deck buyers. Along with pressure-treated wood, redwood, and cedar round out the 3 most common wooden decking material types.
Cedar and redwood naturally repel insects. They are denser and more durable woods than pressure-treated lumber, so they are rot-resistant. Each has a natural beauty that makes them very appealing. They just look great in your backyard. Redwood and cedar are more expensive than pressure-treated wood, but they are usually less costly than composite decking materials.
Whether you choose cedar, redwood or pressure-treated wood, here are the deck maintenance considerations you’ll have to make.
Leaves, pine straw and other natural debris can stain your deck. Even on a wooden deck that has been stained or painted, collected leaves can cause discoloration. Don’t let leaves and other natural debris sit undisturbed for very long. This can lead to the development of mold and mildew that work their way into your wood.
There’s not too much you have to do as far as deck maintenance here.
Break out the broom and get to sweeping. You could use a long-handled wooden floor brush or a leaf blower as well. Clean your deck regularly, as needed. Get in the habit of doing this once or twice a week and you can keep mother nature’s deck staining inclinations at bay.
Before you clean your deck, give it an inspection. Look for mold or rot. Look carefully for broken screws, warped wood and broken pieces of wood. Sometimes nails will push up out of the wood. Make any repairs that are necessary, or call your deck builder to handle the job for you.
Wet wood attracts moss, mildew and sometimes algae. Not only do these fungi infiltrate your wood and damage its structural integrity, but they also look ugly. Then there’s the fact that they can be very slippery, causing an instant safety hazard. Moss and algae spread rapidly. That means if you don’t jump on the job quickly, a small problem could become a big one.
Brushing or sweeping your deck regularly can keep this from becoming a problem in most cases. Sometimes though, because of a lack of sunlight and an accumulation of moisture, you will have to deal with these nasty, natural deck invaders.
Here’s what you need to do.
You can purchase a mold and mildew remover from your local home improvement store. You can also make your own. Mix a cup of chlorine bleach in a gallon of warm water. If you want to make a stronger solution, add 1/4 or 1/3 cup of powdered, laundry detergent (without ammonia). Mix well.
Pour onto your deck, letting the solution sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Now it’s time to get to work. Break out the elbow grease and start scrubbing your deck. Pay attention to spots where discoloration, mold, moss and mildew have done their damage. You can get down on your hands and knees and use a hand brush if you like. Obviously, you are talking about a more intensive cleaning process if this is the way you choose to go.
You can also get a long-handled scrub brush that will minimize the amount of strain you put on your back.
Break out the garden hose when you’re done. Attach a spray nozzle and spray your deck clean. Make sure you get everywhere. You don’t want any of that cleaning solution to collect on your deck. You can also use a pressure washer, but keep the pressure on a low setting. If you go this route, make sure you use a fanning spray nozzle. A low setting with this type of nozzle keeps you from damaging your wood.
Even if you don’t see any mildew or mold, you should scrub your deck at least once a year.
You should sand and stain every 2 to 3 years with a wooden deck. Wood gives into the effects of Mother Nature and Father Time rather quickly if you don’t stain and seal it regularly. Moisture, sunlight, other weather elements and foot traffic can really do a number on a wooden deck.
Before you stain your deck it can be good to sand it.
The bigger the deck, the bigger the project. If you want to sand your deck right after you have scrubbed it clean using the above steps, let your deck dry for at least 48 hours. It’s best to handle this cleaning process when you know you’re going to have a couple of sunny days back to back.
Now it’s time to break out the orbital sander. You may have a belt sander, and if you do, that can work as well. There are sanding pads which come with a long broom handle attachment, but they won’t do as good a job as an orbital or belt sander. If you don’t own an orbital sander, you can pick one up for around $75.
The next step is simple. Start sanding. This is a physically demanding job. As tough as it may be, don’t skip this step. The better your sanding job, the better your wood will absorb the stain you’re going to apply, and the longer your deck will last.
You are probably going to want to stain your deck rather than paint it. Some homeowners want to paint their deck a certain color. They sometimes do this to match the color of their home.
The problem with paint is that it really just sits on your wood. It isn’t absorbed deep into the wood like stain. Much of your deck is horizontal, especially the floor. These horizontal areas can collect water when it rains. This water sits on top of your paint and eventually seeps into your wood. This happens not only if you paint your deck, but also if you use a solid color stain without a sealer.
Over time this collection of water getting heated and drying in the sun can cause boards to expand and contract. Paint begins to chip and peel. Sometimes the paint will conceal wood that is rotting from the inside. The best way to go every time with a wood deck is to use a quality stain/sealer. This process gets the stain down into your wood while also letting moisture escape. The sealer does just that, it seals your wood and makes it less likely to absorb moisture in the first place.
Choose a stain with a heavier tint and you will repel moisture and sunlight even more.
What type of stain is best for wood decks? You can go with an opaque, solid stain/sealer if you like. They hide the grain of the wood, so with a beautiful wood grain like you find in cedar or redwood, you probably want to avoid a solid stain. On the downside, solid stains can build up several coats like paint does. They can also peel, crack and chip like paint.
Semi-transparent stains will color your wood grain. They don’t hide it entirely. A semi-transparent stain works great on red cedar to let that wood show off its natural beauty. You could choose a clear sealer. If you do, it’s recommended to seal your deck every year or two. Make this choice if you have a really gorgeous wood grain you don’t want to cover up.
Going with an oil-based, water-repellent stain/sealer is a good idea. They are long-lasting and soak deeply into wood. You also get an even, consistent look.
There are hundreds of different deck stains. Add the multiple color choices and you have thousands of possibilities. Every stain can affect different wood species differently. There are times when a water-based stain makes sense. Are you having a problem deciding which theme to use?
A good idea here is to talk to your deck builder. Let him know you’re going to stain your deck and ask him what he recommends.
The first thing you need to do is pick the day you’re going to do the job. Staining decks works best when the temperature is between 60 and 90 degrees. It’s also a good idea to avoid direct sunlight if possible. This means you can stain your deck in the morning before the sun has its greatest impact.
Use painters’ tape to protect any non-deck material such as siding on your home. Now it’s time to get to work.
You may be tempted to use a roller to apply your paint. This makes the job go fast. However, when you apply your stain/sealer with a natural bristle brush by hand, it gets deeper into the wood and you have an even coating. This is especially true where you have any decking boards meeting.
You can use a pump-style garden sprayer to apply the stain. Like using a paint roller, this doesn’t get the sealer down into your wood as effectively as with a natural bristle brush. Dispose of stains and solvents properly. Don’t throw them out with your regular trash or wash down the drain. Any brushes, pads or rags should be submerged in water in a metal can. The can should be sealed and disposed of with any leftover stain.
As we mentioned earlier, a sander can cost $75. Of course, you have to buy the sandpaper as well. Stains and sealers can go for as little as $20 per gallon or more than $100 per gallon. You have to buy brushes or rollers to apply the stain. You’re probably going to need some painters tape, drop cloths and rags as well.
The cost of course depends on the size of your deck, the stain you use, where you are located and other factors. Remember, you’re going to need to do this every 2 to 3 years with a wooden deck.
Build a composite deck and you never have to worry about sanding, staining, backbreaking elbow grease and your deck boards rotting, warping or splitting.
Composite materials combine wood and plastic. They come in a wide variety of grain configurations and colors. They can last more than 20 or 25 years with no staining, sealing, or painting. There’s a very low level of maintenance involved. You don’t need to buy sanders and paintbrushes and stains.
You just sweep or brush off your deck regularly and spray it with a garden hose from time to time. That’s it. Honestly, that’s all that’s involved with maintaining a composite deck.
Once a year you may want to scrub or lightly pressure wash it with some warm soapy water. These materials are more expensive than wood, but the time, effort and money spent on maintenance is virtually nothing in comparison.
Let’s compare apples to apples.
Fiberon is a manufacturer of composite decking materials. Their research shows you have to invest between 16 and 32 hours of maintenance on a wooden deck each year.
On a composite deck that time investment is just 2 to 4 hours per year! With a wooden deck you’re talking about some very intense and physically demanding maintenance. If you can sweep a broom and spray a garden hose, that’s all you need to do to properly maintain a composite deck.
Maintaining a redwood, cedar or pressure-treated deck costs more than $5,000 over 10 years. That number is only about $500 for the average sized composite deck. Then you have to talk about deck replacement. A wooden deck needs to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Sometimes boards, spindles and rails need to be replaced. Composite decks can last more than 25 years. Keep this in mind when deciding on whether to go with a wood or composite decking material.
You work hard. You want to come home and relax on your deck, and not spend your time off cleaning, maintaining and working on it. Let us do that for you. We offer a deck staining service. We will clean your deck, prep it, sand it, apply a quality stain/sealer, and clean everything up when we’re done.
No getting down on your hands and knees sanding your deck. No backbreaking bending over and contorting your body in all kinds of positions to reach every part of your deck. We do this for a living. We know exactly how to properly prep and stain your deck for the best possible results. Give us a call and ask about our deck staining service.
You’ll feel a lot better about your deck when you don’t resent it every 2 to 3 years because you have to have it stained. We will be happy to answer any questions you might have about this and any other deck building or maintenance topics.
Deck accessories make a lot of sense for a number of reasons. You built your outdoor deck so you can enjoy the Dallas weather. Although there are plenty of hot and humid summer days in the area, there are also a fair share of days and nights where the weather is just perfect for a get-together in your backyard.
Maybe you’re thinking about building a deck that attaches to the front of your home. Wherever it is located, and whether it’s attached to your home or not, a deck can provide multiple entertainment opportunities and give you lots of great memories.
Unfortunately, a lot of homeowners build their decks without thinking about all of the possibilities. They have always wanted a standard deck and they decide to build one.
This is a shame, because simply adding some porch railing, stairs, drink rails or a gazebo can turn a simple, “good enough” deck into a versatile, “great” outdoor entertainment center. Here are a few accessories you definitely want to consider if you’re going to have a deck built. They can be a part of your initial construction, or you can add them months or even years after your deck was built. They add character and entertainment opportunities that a simple deck can’t deliver.
Imagine this scenario. You have always wanted an outdoor deck. You contact a local deck contractor that has great reviews and lots of happy customers. The two of you sit down and plan a traditional, flat deck in your backyard.
You are given an estimate and a timeline, everything works out perfectly, and you are now the owner of a brand-new, backyard deck. After your first Dallas summer, you realize something. As much as you love your beautiful deck, you didn’t take into account that it doesn’t have any tree cover or other protection against the blazing, Dallas sun. You don’t want to put a solid roof over your deck, so what can you do?
The answer is simple.
Call your deck builder and ask about a deck cover. These are wooden grids or parallel beams that allow in some sunshine, but not all of it. They give your deck a dappled look and provide some escape from much of the direct sunlight your deck is getting.
They are supported by multiple beams but not solid walls. This means you don’t block out that nice of wind that rolls over your deck every evening. It also makes for easy access and keeps the cost of construction down. Additionally, some Dallas homeowners let bougainvillea, wisteria or trumpet vine flowering vines creep up and over their deck covers for a wonderful addition of natural, visual and aromatic beauty.
You can do this with a simple concrete pad too.
Some homes in the Dallas area have a slab of concrete accessible from the back door to the home. Instead of the expensive addition of a full roof that attaches to your home, why not have a patio cover built? These open-air, wooden beam covers can be accentuated with lights, fans, heaters and even televisions so you can watch the Dallas Texas win their first World Series title.
Deck and patio covers are smart and cost-efficient ways to turn a traditional concrete pad or standard deck into something special, while still allowing for airflow and some exposure to the sunlight.
We mentioned that you can use vertical deck posts and a deck cover as a support for climbing vines and flowers. Why not do the same with a trellis? You can build trellises over your deck or use them to line and cover garden paths. They support fruit trees or any type of climbing plants. As far as cost goes, simple trellises are very budget-friendly. They don’t take long to install, either.
That means a minimal installation cost for adding deck accessories.
A trellis is latticework which is used to support plants or climbing vines. There are plenty of opportunities for lattice to add some character to your deck, even if you don’t plan on allowing mother nature to crawl all over it.
Latticework can be used as a cost-efficient deck or patio cover. Have your deck builder run a few stout beams to support the lattice. The latticework is then easily stapled to form the deck cover we just talked about. Whether used as a trellis to show off your gardening skills or simply to add some visual character to your deck, latticework does the job without busting your budget.
The origin of the word pergola can be traced back to ancient times. Pergola means “projecting roof” in Latin. In the mid-17th century that word became spelled as today’s “pergola” in Italy. This Old House calls a pergola the “perfect complement to any garden or deck.”
So, what exactly is a pergola? It can be vertical posts that support cross beams, much like the patio cover we talked about earlier. In many cases it is an archway built with a wooden framework. Once again, this is often used as a way to add climbing vines and flowers to your outdoor experience.
Pergolas come in all shapes and sizes. You can have them attached to your deck or they can be standalone features. A pergola creates a shaded walkway or sitting area. Whereas pergolas are usually used for walkways and sometimes attached to a deck, gazebos are standalone features.
The typical gazebo is shaped as a hexagon (6 sides) or octagon (8 sides). Gazebos have solid roofs, latticework or deck railings, and some have built-in seating areas. You can add mosquito netting or screening for a sense of privacy and protection from hungry Dallas mosquitoes and other insects. Large gazebos are at home in public parks and a smaller version can really accentuate your deck.
Gazebos are sometimes round or often shaped as hexagons or octagons, while pergolas are usually rectangular or square in shape.
One of the reasons you are building your deck is to relax after the end of a long day. That means you had better have some seating. Deck benches provide comfortable seating areas and can be handled a lot of different ways.
Many homeowners will have their deck builders attach benches to the decks themselves. You can alternately have portable benches built. Consider hinging the top of your deck bench and using the interior space for storage.
You can use the natural wood as a seating surface or pick up some outdoor cushions from your local big box store. You might want to build deck bench seating with an enclosed wooden bottom for a more finished look. You can also have your builder construct them with an open bottom so your ankles aren’t kicking the bench supports. However you decide you want your benches built, a quality deck builder can deliver on that vision.
We keep talking about adding mother nature to your deck. One of the reasons you built your deck is to get outside. You want to spend more time in the great outdoors. One way to add more nature to your deck is to have your builder add flower planters. You can build square or rectangle planters that are placed at different areas on your deck.
These can also be standalone accessories which are not built into your deck. One popular approach to deck planters is to make them in long vertical stretches that run the length of your deck.
Not everyone has a deck cover, trellis or pergola to accentuate their deck. This means they have to come up with another way to add their favorite plants and flowers to their deck experience. That is exactly what planters do. Your builder can fashion them out of the same wood or composite material your deck is made of. This ensures they complement your deck instead of sticking out like a sore thumb.
Stairs might not be an immediate deck accessory you think of. You are probably thinking that you either will or won’t need stairs. We mention this accessory as a way to get you thinking about your deck construction.
Instead of just opting for a flat deck that’s built on a concrete pad or low to the ground, why not make a multi-level or raised deck? Obviously, decks with multiple levels need stairs.
The most sturdy, long-lasting and safe stairs or deck steps are always going to be those attached to your deck and built by your deck builder. He installs them during initial construction. They are made specifically to accentuate your deck and be a physical part of the creation. Before you decide on a single-level, standard deck, talk to your builder about the possibility of multi-level or a raised deck.
You may find that adding some simple stairs or a wide and detailed stair system will add a lot of “curb appeal” to your outdoor experience.
When you think of deck rails you probably think of square, vertical posts topped off with a horizontal arm rail. That is the traditional deck railing system you’ll find in Dallas. It adds safety and some visual character to your deck, and is an absolute must-have on a raised deck. In fact, it’s one of the most common deck accessories.
If you’re thinking that the standard deck rail setup is rather boring and “blah”, there’s something you need to know. Your deck builder has access to a number of detailed shapes and patterns that can be incorporated into your railing system. The starburst is a popular deck rail feature that looks like the top of the sun emerging on the horizon.
Other types of deck rail designs include balusters or spindles with detailed carvings. You also have a choice when selecting a handrail. Most people opt for at least a 4 or 6 inch wide top handrail. This makes a perfect place for you to rest your arms and a refreshing beverage.
Speaking of refreshing beverages, why not add some drink rails to your deck? You can easily become the envy of your fellow deck owners by adding this top-notch feature. Your deck builder can cut circular holes in your deck handrails and attach plastic beverage holders. This keeps your drink from spilling if you accidentally nudge it, unlike a typical flat handrail.
You may alternately have your builder create a custom drink holding system that runs around the table-top of your deck.
A lot of cookouts begin on decks. You have that wonderful grill and you love showing off your backyard barbecue skills. If this is the plan for you, make sure your builder creates table-top eating surfaces. Then all you have to do is pull up some bar seating and you have a place for you and your friends to enjoy some cold drinks or to eat the amazing food you crank out on your grill.
Having somewhere to sit and enjoy a great meal turns your deck into a secondary eating area. Installing drink rails shows your family and friends you are a top-notch outdoor entertainer. Planters, pergolas and trellises let you add mother nature’s beauty and aromatic fragrance to your decking experience.
Move away from your deck and you can use trellises and pergola on your walkways and garden paths. They can lead to a beautiful gazebo or the garden that you’re so proud of. Stairs and railings add safety and functionality to your deck, and are an absolute necessity if you have a multi-level or raised deck. Finally, consider a deck cover as a complement to a flat deck. It allows just the right mixture of sunlight, shadows, and air to accentuate your outdoor experience.
If you’d like to know more about deck accessories, reach out to us.
The redwood tree is one of the longest living trees. How long can redwood trees live? There are trees living right now that got their start 2,000 years ago. Of course, these are not the trees which are farmed to make beautiful redwood decking material. We mention how long these trees can live for a simple reason: this speaks to the durability of this beautiful, natural wood.
The beauty of this wood can’t be overstated. Redwood has found its way into many homes and backyard decks because of its rich, deep red tones and colors. It is also used to make furniture and siding. As a decking material it is at home in Dallas and is a popular choice with many homeowners.
Let’s take a closer look.
Did you know that the redwood tree naturally produces compounds that keep pests away? The smell and taste of the pest-hating chemicals means these trees are highly resistant to insect damage. As a matter of fact, the redwood is one of the most bug-resistant of all the softwoods.
You also benefit from a natural resistance to moisture and decay. This makes this decking material a great choice for Dallas and the surrounding area. Bugs and moisture simply don’t have the negative effect on redwood that they do on some other natural woods.
For its classic, real-wood beauty, redwood can’t be beat. The grain is straight and long due to the fact that these trees can grow so massive in size. For a lot of homeowners looking for a consistent appearance, the grain of redwood is much more attractive than cedar, pressure-treated pine and other woods for that reason.
And by the way, this is real wood, not a wood/plastic composite mix. It smells like nature and looks and feels like wood. Its vibrant red colors are often dark and deep, but there are lighter shades and tones as well. You would be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful, natural wood.
You can use a clear sealant on redwood to capture its natural beauty. You can also choose to accent the rich, ruddy tones of this wood with stain.
Redwood is basically weather-resistant. It has a natural ability to not only deter pests like bugs and termites which we mentioned earlier, but it also interacts with water better than most other types of wood.
Redwood can hold water for long periods of time without shrinking, warping or bowing. If you have lived in the Dallas area for any amount of time, you know this is important. Even in the wet, humid Texas summers, redwood decks can last 15 years or more with regular maintenance.
If you choose the more durable heartwood variety of redwood, you can fully expect 25 years of wonderful memories on your redwood deck.
The structural density of redwood means it does not absorb heat like some other woods and composite decking materials. This means a better experience for your bare feet. It also means not burning the skin on your hands, legs and arms when it comes into contact with your deck seating and railing which has been sitting out in the Texas sun.
You won’t spend as much time and money maintaining your redwood deck as if you build another natural wood deck. Your initial building cost will usually be greater than other natural woods and about the same as composite materials. On the plus side, the amount of time you spend on maintenance and the money that maintenance will cost is a lot less during the life of your deck than with pressure-treated lumber, cedar, and some other woods.
Want to learn even more about redwood decking? Check out our Definitive Guide to Redwood Decking.