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 repair and maintenance are essential in making sure that your deck or porch is kept beautiful and safe. Some of these repair jobs can be DIY, while most require the expert input of a professional deck builder who can properly determine what needs to be done and which tools work best with the materials that will be used.
A deck, in any form, shape or size, needs a lot of tender loving care. Any homeowner who chooses to have a deck in his property has to have a deep understanding of the responsibilities that come with owning a beautiful deck.
And while there are some deck repair projects that you can definitely do on your own, most of these repair jobs—especially those that involve exotic wood—need to be done by a deck contractor or a decking company who knows deck building inside out. But when do you need a professional and when can you do the repairs on your own?
In areas where weather conditions can be extreme, such as in Rockwall, Texas, your deck can be easily and constantly exposed to the elements, resulting to accelerated deterioration of the materials used its constructions. Fortunately, most of these damages can be repaired. Here are some of the most common deck problems and wood deck repair scenarios that you or a deck builder can address.
A beautifully refinished deck not only looks great, it also greatly improves the resale value of any home and extends the lifespan of the wood. Due to normal wear and tear, it is necessary to refinish the deck for better wood protection and to revive the stain color. Deck refinishing is also a great opportunity to address minor deck repairs like missing nails and loose boards.
There are several basic steps involved in deck refinishing:
Step 1: Deck inspection—start by inspecting the entirety of your deck. Check for popped nails, loose boards and wobbly railings. Also be on the lookout for structural component issues such as split or cracked wood, as well as rotten boards. The signs that you would want to look for to know if the wood is rotten are molded, discoloration and softness when the part is pressed with a screwdriver or any hard object. A thorough inspection will allow you to assess the extent of deck repairs that need to be done.
Step 2: Deck Cleaning—your deck needs to be properly prepared before refinishing and this is done by thoroughly cleaning the wood beforehand. There are a few methods to do this, and this step can be labor intensive, which is why deck refinishing is often delegated to a deck contractor. You would need the following tools and materials:
You can start cleaning the deck by scrubbing the surface with a stiff bristled brush or broom. Although it may not really get into the tight corners and clean the deep cracks like a pressure washer can, scrubbing can be enough if you also use a commercial cleaner or TSP (trisodium phosphate). Many deck repair professionals prefer this deck cleaning method to power washing because it is less harsh.
Step 3: Pressure Washing—this is actually a standard deep deck cleaning method as it effectively removes old stain, dirt and debris from wooden decks. It is important to remember to not let the spray linger on one spot longer than a couple of seconds, as it can gouge the wood.
Step 4: Pre-application Preparations—to prepare the wood surface for finishing or stain, remove loose finishes or paint with a paint scraper. If the surface is painted or varnished and you want to replace it with a stain, you have to strip the varnish with a chemical stripper or the paint off with a paint stripper and a deck cleaner after. If the surface is painted, you have to sand it. Always read the product label and follow the directions for guidance.
Step 5: Applying the Finish—once the deck is dry and totally clean, you can now apply the finish, which usually comes in transparent, semi-transparent, tinted and solid colors. If you hired a deck contractor for the project, make sure that you specify your preferences. There are practical considerations to remember, though: Tinted or clear products usually last for 1 to 2 years, while solid and semi-transparent stains can last up to 4 to 6 years. Rollers, brushes, sprayers, or pads can be used to apply finishing.
Just because a few boards are damaged, rotten or cracked does not mean that you have to replace the entire deck. Replacing the damaged boards is a less intrusive, and of course, less expensive form of deck repairs. You can do this wooden deck repair project by yourself if you have any experience, but if special fasteners were used to attach the wood, you would need the help of a professional deck builder.
Board replacement involves unscrewing or un-nailing the fasteners that hold the boards together, then cutting a replacement board that will match the size of the previous one. It will then be re-attached with the same type of fasteners. Once firmly in place, the board has to be sealed and stained again to match the rest of the deck.
Another scenario where a deck needs to be repaired is when it becomes wobbly for various reasons. A wobbly deck poses a real danger to you, your family and your guests as the deck may collapse. Some of the reasons why decks become wobbly are:
Check the entire perimeter of your deck, especially the areas that are close to water sources and within 5 inches of the ground. Search for signs of rot by probing the wood with a screwdriver. You can start by checking the stairs. Pay close attention to the saw-toothed notched pieces supporting the steps called “stringers.”
If you can access the underside of the deck, closely inspect the beams, posts and joists. Double-check the “ledger”—this is a very important frame that attaches the deck to your house. Most collapsed decks are caused by failure of the ledger. It is important to note, though, that not all decks have ledgers. Check all the hardware, especially the joist hangers if they were used. You would need to replace any that are severely rusted.
Topside, make sure to give the railings a good shake and check if any of the posts are damaged or loose. If you find damage, it is best to replace as they will get worse in time. Look for cracks around fasteners and screws, and replace damaged or rusted ones right away.
At the first sign that your deck is unstable, you have to consult a decking company or a deck contractor in your area for an in-depth analysis, deck repair cost estimate and advice on how to go about deck repairs. It is always best to keep your deck in top shape so that you and your family can get the most out of it for a really long time.
“I didn’t know I needed deck repair that badly!” Well, you sure as heck know it now. Because you just dropped $100 worth of steak when your foot went crashing through your deck. You have barbecue sauce all over your new shirt, and your spouse is about to pass out from laughing at you. It is bad enough that your dogs are scarfing down the food intended for your friends, but what’s worse is, they are going to be here any minute!
At the end of a long, stressful week, you were just looking forward to some relaxing and well-deserved fun with your friends and family on your deck. So you invited a bunch of friends over, and told them you would be supplying the food.
You have so many fond memories of incredible times spent on your deck. And you were all set to create some more memorable events. And to make it worse, your spouse has been nagging you about checking to see if you needed any deck repairs.
Are there any damaged or loose deck boards that need replacing? Don’t you think it needs to be refinished? Why don’t you call a professional deck builder and get an estimate on any deck repairs that are needed? Nag, nag, nag. Well, you have to admit they were right, and you should have listened.
You wanted to be the envy of your friends and family, and instead you ended up a red-faced laughing-stock. And you want to know the worst part? All this could have been avoided.
No matter the time of year, it is always the right time to implement some safe and smart deck repairs. The cost of building or repairing a deck is almost 100% replaced by the improvement in home resale value. And while many deck repairs can be taken on by the DIY weekend warrior, do you really have the time? Wouldn’t you rather be lounging on your deck than working on it?
You would probably be surprised at how quickly and inexpensively deck repairs can be implemented by a seasoned deck building pro. And in the Dallas Metro area, over 4 inches more rain falls each year than in the rest of the great state of Texas. That means you really need to stay on top of wooden deck repairs, whether you handle them yourself or get a professional deck contractor involved.
And if you’re worried about deck repair costs, you shouldn’t be. When you get a pro involved with decades of experience working on above ground pool decks, screened porch decks and decks constructed from all types of materials, your beautiful deck lasts longer, and you end up spending less money in the long run.
Besides, what if one of your friends would have had the accident you just did? Aside from feeling horribly, you could wind up with bad feelings and a tarnished friendship. And heck, while you are toiling away at your job, a deck repair professional can be returning your outdoor entertainment center to its former glory.
Whether you are in Dallas, Rockwall or Collin counties or anywhere else in the Dallas Metro area, give us a call. We are proud deck owners just like you, and we want your deck to be safe and beautiful. We would be honored to give you a deck repair cost estimate, and we know that you will be pleasantly surprised with what you hear.