How to get your outdoor deck area ready for the cooler months
Caring for your home's deck before the weather turns cooler can actually make it much easier to enjoy when summer rolls back around again. When it comes to deck maintenance, it’s like the old adage – a stitch in time saves nine!
Here are few tips of keeping your deck clean and healthy.
Choose your timing wisely
Although a nice sunny day might seem ideal, don’t subject yourself to the potential UV and heat stress. Cloudy days are perfect for cleaning decks. You won’t get sunburnt and you’ll find the task far less taxing. Plus, if you’re using an expensive cleaner, it’s not going to evaporate before your eyes.
The harsh summer sun is destructive enough, but cold winds and rain can really take their toll on your deck. Stains and dirt can ruin your deck's appearance, and, if you leave them there over winter, they get a lot harder to remedy. A rainy winter can also breed mould and mildew in the grain, which can be very hard to remove.
Protecting from the elements
Cleaning your deck prepares it for the next step - protection. Consider a water-repellent treatment when you're preparing your deck for a change of season. Rain and frosts can cause the wood in your deck to split and deteriorate, but a sealant can help maintain your deck for months - or years - to come. Make sure you remove any flowerpots or furniture from the deck before you start - these often hide marks and stains. You should expect to re-apply clear sealers and toners annually.
Look for signs of rot
Look around the areas of your deck that are within 15 centimetres of the ground, or close to water sources such as planter boxes and drain spouts. Starting with stairs, probe structural members with a screwdriver and pay attention to where the stairs meet the ground. Also check perimeter posts, handrails and their supports. If you can push the screwdriver in more than a few millimetres, you probably have rot. Small areas of rot should be removed with a chisel but if you find rot in structural members, consult a professional carpenter or builder.
Natural timber decks
There are a couple of different ways to look after natural timbers. You can give raw timber a good scrub with a stiff bristle brush and a specialist wood cleaner like Oxalic acid. You’ll be amazed at its restorative powers and how even quite old, natural timber surfaces can be freshened up. However, don’t forget less expensive alternatives like Nappy San. Add two cups to half a bucket of hot water and add the cleaner while scrubbing with your bristle brush.
Oiled or stained decks
If you’ve just built a new timber deck, allow the timber to season for at least two or three months before applying oil for the first time. With older decks, it’s best to re-apply oil every six to twelve months, so autumn and spring are the ideal times. Clean the deck before you start, leaving it to dry overnight. Then, grab your decking brush and extension pole and apply your oil quickly and evenly, with continuous strokes. Have some turps and a rag on standby to clean up spills. Always wear protective eyewear and gloves when using oils and stains.
Painted decks can be a little trickier to maintain. If the paint has started to peel off, you’ll possibly have algae in the wood grain to contend with as well, so it’s best to strip the paint completely and give the deck a pressure wash with bleach and water. Allow the deck to dry fully and the grain to open up before starting with new paint. Choose a ‘high grip’ primer and brush it into the wood grain as deeply as possible. Don’t rush this step. The better the primer is applied, the more chance of a long-lasting upper paint layer. Allow it to dry completely before starting the painting process.
Fixing popped nails
Popped nails aren’t just unsightly; they’re downright dangerous! They’re a trip hazard and an early sign that your deck is starting to fall apart. Don’t just hammer them back in as they’ll simply pop up again. Remove the nail with a cat’s paw or hammer, then use a screw that’s longer than the nail you just removed to re-attach the board.
Ultimately, taking some preventative measures, year round, will save you a lot of effort. Trim nearby bushes and trees. Sweep leaves and debris out of corners, and, move pot plants, planter boxes, tables and furniture around. This helps spread the wear and avoid deck discolouration.
So how is your deck looking?
Could your deck use a little TLC? Tell us about your project’s trials, tribulations and any tips you have for keeping a deck looking top notch.