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How to Care for a Deck

Oct 12, 2007
With proper maintenance a well built deck will provide years of enjoyment and service. Normal usage along with outdoor elements such as rain, snow, ice, wind and constant exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun can affect this outdoor living space harshly. However, a simple program of deck care can go a long way to keeping a deck in relatively good shape.

Sweeping and removing debris minimizes the chances of rot that could cause structural damage. Doing this on a regular basis is a preventative measure that will keep a localized problem from turning into a major reconstruction job. Changes in the deck occur so slowly that homeowners do not readily see a problem beginning to develop. So a planned program of maintenance will provide the cues to staying ahead of the dirt and the grime.

Once every year tighten any fasteners that have loosened and take the time to check for any wood that has become damaged. In most instances, rot occurs in areas that are not readily visible such as near post tops and bottoms and under the decking. Check the underside of stair treads and stringers.

In order to check for rot poke the lumber with a screwdriver, If the wood feels spongy there is definitely a problem. Check the joists and the beams in the same way even though they are not as likely to rot. Instead they are more subject to cracking.

Often homeowners decide to make changes to an existing deck which can be an expensive proposition when simple cleaning and refinishing can combine to give the drab deck a fresh, new look. Neglected decks fall prey to mildew, algae or assume a dingy grey hue. These unsightly conditions are generally just skin deep and a good cleaning is all that is needed to remedy each one.

A clean deck always looks amazingly larger. The cleaning process is simple but labor intensive in some ways. A regular sweep of the surface area is a good idea once a week. This might need to be increased in frequency depending upon the weather.

Once a month the deck should receive a good scrubbing with warm water and a mild detergent. If simple washing does not produce a satisfactory result or if the deck needs to be lightened to apply a finish, a deck cleaning product might be the answer. If the wood is in really poor condition, use oxalic acid mixed with water and scrub one area at a time with a stiff fiber brush. Rinse the area and let it dry. If necessary repeat the process.

In order to clear away all the dirt as well as the surface layer of greyed cells, use a power washer. It is important to use a fan tip so the pressurized water will not tear up the wood surface. Work in line with the wood's grain holding the spray head at a slight angle about 4 to 6 inches above the deck surface. Move slowly and evenly, overlapping adjacent sprayed areas. A model that delivers about 1,000 psi is probably strong enough.

If moss and algae are a problem with the deck it will be necessary to mix a solution of 1 ounce of laundry soap, 3 ounces of trisodium phosphate (TSP) or a nonphosphate TSP substitute, 1 quart of chlorine bleach and 3 quarts of water. Brush the mixture onto a portion of the deck surface and let it sit for 5 minutes. Rinse the solution off and let the area dry. Remember to wear rubber gloves and eye protection because TSP is caustic and could be a safety issue.

Mildew must be treated in another manner. Its slimy black color and unpleasant odor are best dealt with by a bleach solution and improved ventilation. Make a solution of 1 or 2 cups of bleach to each gallon of water or buy a bleach based deck cleaning product. Spray the solution on with a pressure sprayer or use a roller or mop to spread it evenly over the deck. Let it stand about 15 minutes and then spray it off with a garden hose or a pressure washer. Do not scrub unless the product instructions recommend it.

To deal with dirt, mildew, stains and greyed cellulose all in one step, select a commercially available deck cleaning product. Follow the manufacturer's instructions closely. In most cases, roll or spray the solution evenly onto the decking. Wait for a specified period of time and rinse the decking with a garden hose or power washer.

The decision to begin or maintain a regular program of deck care can be of huge benefit to a homeowner in order to keep the deck looking great and to get as many years as possible of use from it.
About the Author
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
Deck Care and Maintenance and Claim your 2
FREE Deck Plans, Insider Report, MP3 Audio and discover everything to know about
building a deck visit:
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