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Deck Maintenance & Care Checklist for DIYers

A deck can make your home and yard more fun and increase the value of your home when you want to sell it. But having a deck comes with some responsibilities, especially regular maintenance. Decks are open to the weather all year long. Rot, mold, and insect infestations are more likely to happen on wood decks.


Compared to wood, composite decking is easier to take care of because most composite deck boards have a core made of both wood and synthetic materials. This core is surrounded by a synthetic coating that keeps water and bugs from getting in and making your deck fall apart. On the other hand, because wood is a natural material, it can be much more susceptible to weather and insects and can soak up more water.


But if you do regular maintenance, you can make a wood deck last longer. Maintaining your deck on a regular basis is very important if you want it to look nice and last for a long time. Follow this list of maintenance tips for wood decks to help keep your deck in good shape.


Check for Decaying and Rotting Wood


It's important to keep your wood or pressure-treated wood deck in good shape if you want to use it safely for decades. The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) says that you should check your deck for decaying or rotting wood at least once a year.


When you look at your deck, check all areas, surfaces, and joists carefully and thoroughly. Here's a quick, do-it-yourself list of the best ways to maintain and inspect your deck every year:


Check the chart of accounts. This is the piece of wood that connects your deck to your house or another structure that holds your deck down. The ledger board is often one of the first places on a deck to show signs of rot. Ledger boards that aren't flashed correctly can be a major cause of rot. By flashing your ledger boards, you can make a barrier against rain and moisture. Another reason why ledger boards might be more likely to rot is that they might have been made from wood that doesn't resist decay. Look for rot in the joists and support posts. Joists and support posts are important to the way your deck is built. You should not only look for signs of rot in your joists and support posts, but you should also do good preventive maintenance on a regular basis.


Check deck boards. Check the surface of your deck for signs of rot, pests, or boards where the wood has started to split. Check each individual deck board to make sure it isn't loose, has small holes, or feels soft. Boards that are too loose should be tightened, and boards that are split or rotting should be replaced. If you can, you should also check the underside of your deck boards for rot and/or pests. Also, make sure there are enough spaces between the deck boards to let water drain and air flow.



Get a screwdriver. You can check your deck with a screwdriver to see if the wood is soft or easy to break. This could be a sign that the wood is rotting.


Look for signs of infestation. You can poke your deck with a screwdriver to find any spots that might be rotting, and you should also look for small holes. These tiny holes can be signs that termites or other pests have made their way into the wood or that insects are living there.


Make Sure Fasteners, Stairs and Railings are Secure


As a care and maintenance recommendation, deck owners should check their nails, screws, or anchors often. Check fasteners to ensure your deck and railings don't wobble. Ledger boards, which connect your deck to a house or other structure, should be checked for fasteners. Your deck could fall if its fasteners aren't tight.


Ledger board: Attach it to something stable.


Check your stairs and railings for rot and decay.


When inspecting stairs and railings, check the risers and stringers. Check stair fasteners for looseness and stability.


Examine screws and nails. Check deck boards for loose screws or nails. This could make people trip or indicate loose deck boards. Hammer down nails and replace loose or old screws.


Check screws and bolts for rust. Replace rusted nails and screws. Use stainless steel fasteners near salt water.


Clean The Deck and Clear Any Debris


Even composite decking needs cleaning. By keeping your deck free of clutter and trash, you'll keep it in good shape and make it safer. Mold and mildew can cause decay if not removed from a deck regularly.


Maintaining your deck requires a regular cleaning plan. Deep clean your deck twice a year. Early spring deck cleaning prepares it for summer BBQs and other parties.


Frequently sweep your deck. Treat your deck like another room. Sweep your deck weekly or biweekly to remove dirt and debris.


Leaves and other litter, such as old napkins or plastic bags, should be removed routinely. If they get wet or damp, they might potentially produce mold or mildew on your deck.


Remove deck clutter. Along with vacuuming your deck, inspect between boards for debris. Wet or decaying leaves can cause mold and mildew between deck boards. Between boards, use a putty knife.


Use the correct deck cleaner: Use the correct cleaning solution to maintain your deck. You don't want to scratch the surface.


Stain and Seal a Pressure-Treated Wood Deck

Staining or sealing your deck once a year prevents rot and rotting. There are variations between staining and sealing a deck. Sealers are transparent, water-resistant coatings for wood decks. It "seals" your deck when it dries. This prevents decay.


A deck stain is a tinted solution that changes a wood deck's color. Even though many new deck stains repel water, check the label to be sure it seals. If your deck stain doesn't have a sealant, you must apply one. This will protect your deck from water by adding an extra layer of water resistance and prevent stains from wearing off in high-traffic areas.


Sealants and stains should be applied in excellent weather. Check the forecast to stain and seal your deck when it's dry. Weather can undo your hard work. Give your deck 48 hours to dry after cleaning. If you've washed or cleaned your deck, let it dry before staining or sealing it. After cleaning your deck, let it dry for 48 hours. If your deck is shady, you may want to wait 24 hours before staining or sealing it.


Forecast it. Check the weather report to see if you can stain or seal the wood. Between 50 and 90 F is ideal for staining and sealing. Put plastic over deck plants and furnishings. Move furniture, plants, and other items off your deck before staining. Cover plants, furniture, and adjoining grass or bushes with plastic sheets, tarps, or garbage bags before staining or sealing. If you have an elevated deck, cover the ground below it with a tarp to protect your grass and any temporary storage there while staining your deck.


Deck-sand. This step is optional, but you should perform it if your deck has numerous sealer or stain layers. Sand your deck before staining or sealing. This improves stain or sealer adhesion. Sanding your deck removes old stain or sealant and smooths out wood splinters. Using 80-grit paper, sand your deck. Instead of sanding on your hands and knees, use a pole sander.


Clean decks need stain or sealant. After sanding, wipe away dust and grit. You can sweep or blow away dust. (Don't use a hose to clean!) Dry your deck before staining or sealing it. Before staining or sealing, clean the deck. This will assist your deck stain or sealer stay and prevent dirt from being "sealed in."


Note: If your stain doesn't have a sealer built in, stain your deck first, then apply the sealer. Wait a day before sealing or moving furniture back onto your deck after staining. Seal stains after 24 hours. Wait 24 to 48 hours before walking on your deck after sealing.


How Do You Maintain a Pressure-Treated Wood Deck?


Pressure-treated wood decks require the same care and upkeep as normal wood decks. Pressure-treated wood is forced with water and chemicals to resist decay, insects, and dampness. This method makes store-bought pressure-treated wood feel moist. As water evaporates, preservatives react with wood. This makes wood endure longer and repels insects and water.


Pressure-treated wood should be cleaned and maintained like pine, cedar, and redwood. Using a proper sealant is vital for treating a deck. Sealing a pressure-treated wood deck protects it from water like any other deck. If you maintain and repair your wood deck regularly, it will last for years. Using these strategies and lists will make annual and seasonal deck upkeep easier.

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