How to Protect Your DeckBy Dave Kile
As we move toward summer, we look forward to sunshine on the deck and tasty meals hot off the barbie. To get ready for these glorious days, we need to protect the deck, so it lasts for many summers to come.
Protecting your deck is an essential home improvement task, but it’s not complicated. The three most important steps are to seal the deck, clean the deck, and protect the deck.
Seal Your Deck
Your timber deck needs extra protection. Along with using Trex Protect flashing tape during construction to cover your bearers and joists, you’ll need to care for your decking boards by sealing them regularly.
Deck maintenance is critical because an unprotected deck will rot much more quickly. The best deck sealants coat the fibres, like wax on a car, so your timber can resist moisture.
Even pressure-treated timber will eventually crack and split if repeatedly exposed to water. Without protection, the timber is also prone to fungus growth and ultraviolet light. Use a deck preservative — a deck sealer or stain with clear sealer to cover and protect those top boards. A sealant is usually clear, while stain colours your timber and often gives it a richer look. Deck stain can be semi-translucent or opaque.
Stain and sealant lose their ability to protect, so reapply over time. Depending on how protected your deck is from the elements and the amount of foot traffic it sees, you may have to re-stain or re-seal every year. Some newer products, however, can last longer, up to three or four years.
Here is an easy step-by-step guide to sealing from Decks.com:
- Check the weather to be sure you’ll have temperatures between 10° and 32°C. The right temperature will ensure the best seal.
- Clean off the deck surface — both furnishings and debris.
- Sand, if needed. Sanding helps ensure the sealer adequately penetrates the timber. Be sure to clean off any sawdust, even between the cracks.
- Stir the sealer. Please do not shake it, as that may cause bubbles in the finish.
- Apply the sealer with a brush, paint roller, or sprayer. Apply a thin coat over a two-to-three-board section. You can always add another thin coat later as it will apply and dry better than one thick coat.
- Repeat and fine-tune. Let it dry. Make sure the deck is completely dry before moving back the furnishings.
Clean Your Deck
Using a pressure washer may seem like a quick and easy way to clear out all the accumulated dirt and grime; however, you need to be aware of the damage it may cause. A power washer’s pressure may cause splintering and damage to the fibres if you have timber deck boards. If the timber surface already has some splintering, pressure washing will only make it worse. The best route is soap and water.
What about composite decking? A power washer can also scar composite boards depending on the material if the pressure is too high. If power washing becomes too intense, it can even chip the material. If you damage your composite deck with a vigorous power wash, it can affect the warranty.
If you’ve installed high-quality composite decking such as Trex, you should wash it on a semi-annual basis. Trex recommends a basic cleaning with a composite deck cleaner or a combination of soap, hot water, and a soft-bristle brush. Note: The use of products containing bleach or acid will lighten the surface of Trex.
The biggest issue with power washing is the pressure. You may use a low-pressure setting to aid in your deck cleaning; however, the recommended method is to leave this to the professionals.
If you DIY with a power washer:
- Hold the nozzle of the power washer at least .61 metres off the ground.
- Use a pressure washer with a fan tip attachment/adjustment and a soap dispenser to remove soil and debris.
- Spray the deck with soap, then follow by gently scrubbing each deck board with a soft bristle brush.
- Rinse thoroughly. If dirty water from cleaning is left to dry, it will cause a film to remain on the decking surface.
If hiring a professional, be sure to ask for someone with deck experience and suggest using a relatively low-pressure setting (usually adjust the sprayer pressure to 1,500 PSI or lower).
Cleaning without a pressure washer requires some scrubbing, but it’s generally safer for your deck. You’ll need a broom, garden hose, bristle brush, and a biodegradable deck-cleaning solution. Avoid bleach and acid solutions unless you’ve tested them in a small area, not highly visible. Here is a simple step-by-step process for cleaning without a power washer:
- Remove furniture and any other objects from the deck boards.
- Sweep off any leaves or other debris from your deck.
- Test your cleaner on a small area to be sure there is no staining.
- Clean with water, a cleaning solution, and a bristle brush.
- Scrub the entire deck.
- Rinse off with a hose. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly so it doesn’t leave a film.
- Let the deck completely dry before moving furniture and décor back onto the deck.
Protect Your Deck
Most decks last for many years. However, the greatest danger to timber is water damage. Without proper protection, a timber foundation can start decaying long before the warranty runs out. Home builders say most decks begin to split and rot around 8-10 years.
The cause: The timber joists and bearers used to build your deck is exposed to moisture. Water enters through the deck boards and screws holes. Once it gets into these spaces, it sits on the timber, causing it to rot and the screws to rust. The damage happens even faster in areas with significantly hot and wet weather.
Your deck boards will last a lot longer than your timber substructure unless you take steps to protect the joists and bearers from moisture—the answer: high-quality flashing tape.
Trex Protect’s butyl tape is easy to use and simple to apply. Available in three widths –50 mm x 20m for joists, 100mm x 20m for bearers and 279.4mm x 15.2m for rim joists—Trex Protect is applied as a cap (vs wrapping) to horizontal and vertical surfaces, allowing the timber to breathe. It comes with a 25-year warranty that guarantees you will get the life out of your deck.
The small cost of flashing, a good cleaning, and sealing the deck consistently are worth preserving your beautiful deck.