You probably already feel the change in seasons. It’s time to get out your stored jumpers and wellies. Stir up a pot of soup and make some warm bread.
The winter months are nearly upon us, so now is the perfect time to winterise your deck. The good news: protecting your deck against harsh winter weather isn’t hard. From cleaning to inspecting to applying flashing tape, maintaining your deck for years to come just takes some intention. The results are worth it!
Here are a few tips to help you protect your favourite outdoor space: your deck!
How to Prepare and Protect Your Decking for Winter
As you get ready for winter, you have the optimum opportunity to do a walk-around inspection. Even with the best timber, over time, the wood can break down, bend or weaken. Look for cracks, discoloured timber and insect damage. Leaves build-up and mould, mildew, moss and algae can all cause damage as they hold moisture on the deck’s surface.
Dry rot can be an especially insidious foe. Look for it in discoloured or spongy timber that easily flakes off or falls apart. Problem areas include: anywhere that timber comes in contact with the ground, the ledger board attaching the deck to the house, and anywhere that holds moisture, such as around broken gutters or sprinkler systems.
How to Treat Timber Rot
If you suspect dry rot, call a professional in for repair. Often, it would be best if you replaced the rotten boards. However, if the trouble is deeper, you may need to also repair areas of the substructure, such as joists or bearers. If replacing rotten deck boards, be thorough because rot can spread.
Some homeowners like to do their own inspections and repairs. If you decide to DIY a repair, take these steps now before winter weather causes further damage:
- Take out any nails or screws. If the fasteners refuse to come out, chop the board into pieces to pry them loose.
- Check out bearers and joists. Repair, replace or reinforce any timber that is soft or discoloured. Once you’ve removed your deck boards, be sure to cover any joists or bearers with butyl flashing tape.
- Strengthen the joists. Cover all damaged timber with tape or sealer if it can be salvaged. Position a reinforcing bearer tightly against the damaged timber, and attach it with galvanised deck screws. Attach the reinforcing joist to the ledger and header by toenailing with nails or screws.
- Install deck boards. Cut the replacement boards from matching timber.
Once you’ve inspected and repaired your deck, be sure to give it a good cleaning before winter sets in. Even a potted plant without a saucer beneath or a messy grill can cause discolouration
of the boards. Sometimes you need to remove all your furnishings to see the true state of your timber deck.
Clean your deck with warm soapy water or some other bleach-free cleaner. If you opt for a power washer, use a PSI set at 1,100 or lower because you may damage the wood. A fan attachment is less likely to cause damage. If you haven’t used a power washer before, try it out in an inconspicuous place to make sure it won’t cause damage.
Should I Seal the Deck before Winter?
Definitely plan to seal your deck before winter if it needs it. A seal will help protect against — you guessed it — mould, moisture, warping, cracking and rot! As mentioned below, you can choose a clear sealant or a protective stain with sealant included in the formula.
When Should You Protect Your Deck?
How do I know whether it needs sealing? Every deck is a little different, but sealing every 2 to 5 years is advisable. To see if your deck needs a seal, pour a few drops of water onto your deck boards. If the water immediately absorbs into the wood, you need to seal it. If it beads up — like on a well-waxed car — you have more time, as your water repellant is still working.
What is the Best Wooden Deck Sealer?
To determine the best timber deck sealer for your project, you’ll want to consider what colour you’re trying to achieve, if it’s suitable for the type of timber used if it has a non-slip surface when dry and how long it lasts. Some popular brands include RONSEAL, SIKKENS, Cuprinol and Johnstone. Ask your home improvement store experts what high-quality sealer they recommend.
Is it Better to Stain or Seal a Deck?
Whether you stain or seal, you’ll need to be sure the product has a sealant. The seal protects your wood fibres and is translucent once dried. Stain, on the other hand, may contain sealant, but it comes in a variety of colours.
If your wood already has some splitting or cracking, you may need to sand it down before staining or sealing. Sweep — or use a shop vac or leaf blower — to remove any dust that remains after sanding.
Before applying sealant or stain:
- Make sure the deck is dry and clean.
- Apply in thin coats, adding more as needed.
- Start with the railings and work your way down to the deck boards.
If the idea of deck care is bringing you down, consider composite decking, which is virtually maintenance-free.