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If you have a deck at your home, it’s important for both the look and life of the deck that you perform standard maintenance at the appropriate intervals.  Decks can last for many years when properly taken care of; however, if left to split and rot, you may get less than half the time expected from your investment.  Maintenance is relatively cheap and easy and there is just no reason to overlook it.  Here are some basic tips for keeping your deck in great shape and getting the longest life out of it that you can.

Wash your deck regularly

It’s important to keep your deck clean and free from any materials that can damage the finish.  At the very least, when repairing the deck, it’s critical to thoroughly wash the deck ahead of time.  If you choose to use a pressure washer for the cleaning, it’s important to keep the pressure stream in constant motion to avoid damage to the wood.  A good pressure washer will have plenty of power to mark up and dent the deck if the stream is kept in one spot for too long.  Keep the stream moving in the same way you would continuously move an iron to avoid burning clothing.  Before you start on repairs, give the deck at least half a day or a full night to dry completely.

Fixing Wood Splits

When starting on repairs, take the time to go around the deck to check for boards that have split down the middle.   Make a mark on the damaged board.  It’s important to note that, when marking the board, make sure not to mark over a support joist as it could do damage to your saw if you start cutting at the joist.   Remove all of the nails or screws and then use a jigsaw to cut out the split board from the deck.  Be extremely careful so as not to accidentally cut into undamaged sections of the deck.  Once the split board has been completely removed, cut a replacement piece to the right fit.  From there you can fasten the new piece to the support joists using deck screws.   Keep in mind that the board will shrink as it loses moisture.  Because of this, it’s not uncommon for the new board to appear to stick out a bit from the top of the deck.  If three weeks pass and the new board is still too high, the deck can be evened out with a belt sander.   Before sanding, check all the screws and nails to ensure that they are recessed enough into the wood to prevent them from being hit with the sander.   While sanding, try to avoid contact with the adjacent boards.

Replace Loose Nails

Take a look around the deck for any nails that may have loosened over time and remove them with a hammer or cat’s paw.  When replacing the nail, try using a deck screw instead to avoid running into the same problem again.  Typically, nails that loosen do so for a reason and an area of the deck where a nail has been loosed once will likely run into the same problem with a new nail.  A deck screw that is longer than the original nail can be used to make sure that the same problem is not encountered again.

Regular Inspection

Performing regular inspections is an essential part of deck maintenance. Aim to inspect your deck at least twice a year, ideally in the spring and fall. Look for signs of wear and tear, such as loose boards, protruding nails, and any areas where the wood may be rotting or splitting. Early detection of these issues allows for timely repairs, preventing minor problems from escalating into major, costly repairs.

Cleaning and Removing Debris

In addition to washing your deck, it’s important to keep it free from debris such as leaves, dirt, and other organic matter. These can trap moisture and create a breeding ground for mold and mildew, which can deteriorate the wood over time. Use a broom or leaf blower to regularly clean your deck. For more thorough cleaning, consider using a deck cleaner formulated to remove mold, mildew, and algae.

Protecting Against Water Damage

Water is one of the biggest enemies of wood, leading to rot and decay. To protect your deck from water damage, ensure that it is properly sealed. Water-repellent sealers can be applied to the wood to create a barrier against moisture. Check the sealant annually by sprinkling water on the deck; if the water beads up, the seal is still effective. If the water absorbs into the wood, it’s time to reapply the sealant.

Managing Plants and Furniture

While potted plants and outdoor furniture can enhance the aesthetic appeal of your deck, they can also cause damage if not managed properly. Use saucers under plant pots to prevent water from accumulating and causing wood rot. Move furniture around occasionally to avoid uneven fading and wear on the deck surface. When moving heavy items, lift them rather than dragging to prevent scratching the wood.

Staining and Sealing

Once all the damage has been repaired and the deck is even and in shape, it’s time to stain and seal the deck.  It’s true that some woods are resistant to typical issues that cause decay, but that doesn’t mean they are sunproof or completely weatherproof.  In order to get the full life from your deck, it’s important to re-stain at regular intervals.  Make sure to use a clear wood stain with UV protection.  This way your deck will not change color over time and you will also get the additional benefits and protection offered from a UV protective stain.  There are a few different types of stains available, such as latex or oil which are excellent options providing resistance to both mildew and fading. A couple of days and nights should be allowed to go by after the stain has been applied before finishing the deck with the sealant.

Winter Preparation

In Houston, winters are relatively mild, but it’s still important to prepare your deck for the colder months. Remove any furniture, planters, or other items from the deck to prevent moisture from being trapped underneath. Sweep away any leaves or debris, and consider covering the deck with a breathable tarp if there is a risk of frost. Ensure that snow and ice are not allowed to accumulate, as the freeze-thaw cycle can cause damage to the wood.

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