What’s On Deck

After the harsh winter, it’s time to freshen up decks that look worn and tired

By Diane Franklin

Spring is almost here, which means it’s time for that annual ritual that many homeowners dread: deck cleaning and staining. If your wood deck is looking worn and tired, follow these five steps and soon it will be looking as good as new.

  1. Do a thorough cleaning. Use a garden hose or power washer to wash off the dirt and grime. Your local paint store will be able to recommend a commercial deck cleaner or brightener to clean and revitalize your weathered wood. When mold or mildew is present, look for products that are formulated to eliminate those stains from the surface. Some of the new eco-friendly products are bleach-free, making them safer to use. After cleaning, make sure you let the wood dry thoroughly before proceeding with application of a wood sealer or stain.
  2. Repair as needed. Check existing deck boards. Remove and replace deck boards that are split and damaged. Reset any loose nails or deck screws.
  3. Strip off old coating as needed. If the previous coating on your deck is peeling or flaking, remove the coating by scraping, sanding and/or using a specialty deck stain remover. Make sure you protect surrounding surfaces and plant life with plastic sheeting before using a sprayable deck stripper. (Wet down the plants before applying the sheeting). Follow directions and use appropriate eye and skin protection.
  4. Choose your deck coating. There are a variety of opacities to choose from, based on the desired look and your desired maintenance schedule. A general rule of thumb is: The more opacity, the more UV protection, and the longer the coating will last. Clear coatings, wood toners, and transparent stains are the least opaque, but they typically need to be re-applied every year. Semi-transparent stains have more pigment but will still let the beauty of the wood grain show through and will possibly last beyond one season. For older and more weathered decks, you may wish to use a semi-solid or solid-color stain to hide the aging wood and provide three to five years of protection. If you live in a climate where extreme weather is especially hard on your deck, the more opaque coatings may be your best bet for maximum protection.
  5. Check the weather. Apply the coating on a day when the temperature is between 50 and 90 degrees. Check the forecast to make sure it is clear of rain or overnight below-freezing temperatures. A cloudy day or a shady yard are the best conditions for applying your coating. Avoid applying the coating in direct sunlight, since this could cause the coating to dry prematurely before penetrating thoroughly into the wood. Allow the coating to dry thoroughly (24 to 48 hours) before walking on the deck or replacing deck furniture.

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