Sunshine and dinner hot off the grill. What’s better than time on the deck? To make the most of outdoor living, extend the life of your deck.
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 wood deck needs extra protection. Along with using Trex Protect flashing tape during construction to cover your beams 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 fibers, like wax on a car, so your wood can resist moisture.
Even pressure-treated wood will eventually crack and split if repeatedly exposed to water. Without protection, the wood 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 colors your wood 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 50 and 90 °F. 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 wood. 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. If you have wood deck boards, a power washer’s pressure may cause splintering and damage to the fibers. If the wood surface already has some splintering, pressure washing will only make it worse. The best route is soap and water.
What about composite decking? Depending on the material, a power washer can also scar composite boards 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 combination of soap, hot water, and a soft-bristle brush. Note: Use of products containing bleach or acid will lighten the surface of Trex.
The biggest issue with power washing is the pressure. You may be able to 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 two feet 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 wood is water damage. Without proper protection, a wood foundation can start decaying long before the warranty runs out. According to homebuilders, most decks begin to split and rot around 8-10 years.
The cause: The wood joists and beams 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 wood, causing it to rot and the screws to rust. In areas with significantly hot and wet weather, the damage happens even faster.
Your deck boards will last a lot longer than your wood substructure unless you take steps to protect the joists and beams from moisture—the answer: high-quality flashing tape.
Trex Protect’s butyl tape is easy to use and simple to apply. Available in two widths –1-5/8” (4.12cm) for joists and 3-1/8” (7.94cm) for double beams —Trex Protect is applied as a cap (vs. wrapping) to horizontal and vertical surfaces, allowing the wood to breathe. It comes with a 20-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.