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The Truth About Deck Maintenance
By Mike Holmes
Wednesday, April 28th, 2021 @ 9:30am
All outdoor structures require some form of maintenance. Just because it’s not part of your main home, doesn’t mean you can slack on its seasonal maintenance.
Remember, your deck and other structures are getting hammered by the elements year-round. If you don’t take care of these structures properly, you’re going to find that they begin to fail and wear out a lot sooner than they should.
You don’t want to have to replace a deck after 10 years because you let the maintenance get ahead of you.
Here’s what you need to do keep your deck in tip-top shape.
Begin Each Season with a Deck Check
Before you pull out the barbecue and host your first deck party of the season you have one VERY important job to complete first: your annual deck check.
So what do you look for? Is your ledger board in healthy shape? The ledger board is what connects your deck with the rest of the home. It’s a long board that runs the length of your deck and helps anchor your deck and keep it standing strong.
A rotted ledger board is one of the most common reasons for deck failure. Check the health of the board by looking for visible signs of rot on the board. Then, line your screwdriver near the area with the deck joists attaches to the ledger board and strike it with your hammer. If the screwdriver sinks into the wood, you’ve got dry rot.
In this case, call in a contractor immediately to assess the overall health of your deck and let them make some suggestions on how best to solve your deck problems.
You can perform a visual inspection of your deck yourself, looking out for instances of rotting wood, broken stairs or railings, rot, and other signs of damage, but if your deck is older than five years old, you may want to have it professionally inspected every few years to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Staining and Resealing Your Deck
How often do you need to stain or perform a deck sealing? Well, there is no magic answer – there are a lot of factors that will alter that.
For example – what kind of decking material you use, what kind of stain or deck sealer you use, and what kind of exposure to the elements the deck has. Of course, that means, even if you use the same stain each time, if you get hit by a particularly harsh winter, or get a ton of rain one year, you may find yourself restaining a lot sooner than planned!
After it rains, take a look out onto your structure. If the water beads and stays for a while, the deck is still repelling water, and your protection is still good, no beads means it’s time for a maintenance coat.
To be honest, one of the best things that will protect your deck, and reduce restaining is a good roof. However, we all don’t have roofs over our deck (and truly, not all of us would want one) – but anything that can protect your deck from getting the full force of the heavy wind, rain, snow, and slush can help extend the life of your stain.
What Kind of Stain Do I Want?
This all boils down to how much work you want to put into your deck. In general, the thicker the deck stain, the longer it will last. So it makes sense that a solid stain makes the best protection for your deck and other outdoor structures because it has the most pigmentation (colour) and takes longer for the sun’s UV rays to break through and allow moisture in.
You may want to use a translucent or semi-transparent stain because that will help preserve the great natural colour of your wood. In this case, you’ll also have to do an anti-mildew treatment and add an additional coat of stain yearly. Even if the manufacturer of the product says you can get away with doing this every two years, you still have to factor in what Mother Nature does to the deck and the fact that there may be decay happening that you can’t see with the naked eye alone.
That means you’ll be adding another coat of that translucent stain more often than you think. That’s not a bad thing if you love the look, and are prepared to do the work – but it’s not something you can slack on.