As the weather warms up and the days become longer, we’re moving our gatherings outdoors. But first, get your outdoor space in tip top shape with a little DIY deck maintenance.
DIY Deck Maintenance by Decking Material
There are three common types of decking material. Each requires slightly different cleaning methods, but the prep is the same no matter your decking material. First, you should remove any accumulated debris from between the boards of your deck. You can do this using a putty knife or similar tool. Once you have removed all plant material (leaves, pine needles, etc.) and debris, give the deck a thorough sweeping. Now you’re ready for cleaning and refinishing.
By far the most popular and traditional decking material, wood does require a bit of care and upkeep. After debris removal and sweeping, carefully inspect your deck for any signs of damage or rot. Once you confirm that the wood is in good shape, you can start cleaning. Wood is more likely to mildew than a composite material, so look for a cleaning product that contains sodium per-carbonate. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to wear the appropriate safety gear. Using a stiff bristle brush or push broom, thoroughly scrub your deck with the wood grain. For larger areas, a power washer may be used, but be sure to keep the spray at least six inches from the wood surface to avoid damaging softer woods. Again, spray with the natural wood grain, not against it. Wait at least 48 hours after cleaning before applying paint or stain. Wood decking will require re-staining or re-painting every 2-3 years. Make sure to scrape any old, peeling paint from the surface before you reapply new paint. If you’re re-staining the surface it’s recommended that you use an oil based product for increased durability.
Composite decking is a fairly new product. While it’s more expensive than wood, it requires far less maintenance, retaining a like-new appearance for several years. This material will fade over time if exposed to direct sunlight, but in the case of fading there are several easy-to-use staining products on the market. Keep in mind that composite materials may retain grease stains (especially near grilling areas). Quick clean-up of oil spills and spatters on composite decking is best. For yearly deep cleaning it’s recommended that you use a mildly alkaline chlorinated mold and mildew remover/cleaner. First, wet the entire deck, then gently scrub each deck board with a soft bristle brush. Finally, rinse the entire deck thoroughly to avoid soap residue build up. Note: power washing is NOT recommended for composite decks, as it may cause damage to the product and ultimately void the manufacturer’s warranty.
Vinyl is an inexpensive and durable alternative to traditional decking material, and it requires fairly little maintenance. In fact ,most manufacturers claim that vinyl decking will never need refinishing as long as it is cleaned thoroughly on an annual basis. That makes your DIY deck maintenance easy. First, address any visible areas of mold or mildew with full strength vinegar. Let the vinegar sit on the affected area for up to one hour then wipe clean with a soft sponge. After all the mildew has been removed use warm soapy water and a stiff broom to clean, scrubbing in a gentle circular motion. Finally, rinse the entire surface with a lightly pressurized water hose.
Yearly deck cleaning and maintenance may take a little time and effort, but it’s sure to pay off. You and your family will have a beautiful, safe, and comfortable outdoor space for years to come!