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How to Prepare & Protect Your Deck for Winter

Winter is on its way. Are you ready to go? When the weather gets cooler in the fall, many people start getting their yards ready for the cold winter months by planting bulbs, putting down mulch, trimming, and doing other general yard work. The list should also include your deck.

Preparing your deck for cold weather is just as important, especially if it's made of natural wood or you live in a place with harsh winters. It will extend the life of your deck and save you time, money, and effort in the long run. You'll also be ready to use your deck more in the spring and summer.

Steps to Protect & Prepare Your Deck for Winter

Now that we know how important it is to prepare and protect your deck for winter, what exactly does that mean? Let's find out.

Remove Dirt, Leaves And Debris

Even though it might not seem like a big deal, dirt, leaves, pine needles, and other trash can build up on your deck and in the spaces between your floor boards over time. In the winter, this junk makes it easier for snow and ice to build up and lock in moisture. Moisture is bad for your deck because it causes wood to rot and other damage to its structure and parts. Make sure there is nothing on your deck before winter comes.

Clean Your Deck and Get Rid of Mildew

Before winter comes, it's a good idea to clean mildew off your deck. If you don't do anything about it, a thick buildup of mildew can get slippery when it rains.

To get rid of mildew, you can buy a product or make a simple solution out of common household cleaners. One recipe calls for three quarts of hot water, six dry ounces of powdered certified organic oxygen bleach, and a quarter cup of liquid dish detergent that doesn't contain ammonia. Mix the oxygen bleach powder until it dissolves.

Use a hand-pump garden sprayer to put a lot of the solution on your deck's surface. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before giving it a light scrub. A painter's pole with a stiff scrub brush on it works well. After scrubbing, rinse well right away. Don't use chlorine bleach or anything else that has sodium hypochlorite in it. All plants and trees in the area will die if you use chlorine bleach. It can make the deck fasteners and any other metal structural connectors rust faster.

Inspect Your Deck

You should do a general inspection of your deck before putting it away for the winter. Check both the top and the bottom to find places where water may have gotten in and made the surface weak. Use an old ice pick or a very thin screwdriver with a flat head to probe any wet spots in the wood. If the wood is rotten, the pick or screwdriver will go right through it.

You should also check for loose railings or footings and tighten any hardware that could make your deck unsafe over the winter.

Seal & Finish Your Deck

You should never forget to seal and finish your deck as one of the best ways to protect it and get it ready for winter. Sealing or staining your deck should be done at least once every two to three years to protect the wood from rain, snow, and ice.

Moisture can get into a deck that isn't sealed, which can cause it to warp, crack, split, and, most likely, rot. And we all know that you don't want your deck to rot. Deck rot can destroy the structure and strength of your deck and make it more likely that pests will get in.

If you decide to seal, make sure to use certified organic oxygen bleach to clean as described above. Follow the directions on the sealer's label and pay close attention to any instructions about how to use it at low temperatures.

Removing Snow & Ice from Your Deck Surface

Now that you know how to get your deck ready for winter, what do you do when it's cold outside? Protecting a deck during the winter is not the same as getting it ready for winter. Does snow hurt a deck? Can you salt your deck? How do you shovel a deck? There are a lot of questions about how to take care of a deck in the winter.

How to Remove Snow From Your Deck

You don't need a snow shovel to move a little bit of snow. You can use a simple broom instead. When using a shovel, be careful because some materials can scratch or scuff your deck.

But if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and need to use a shovel, it's important to shovel along the length of the deck boards (with the grain). Never run the shovel across the width of the boards. This could scratch the deck and ruin the stain or paint. Do not use a metal shovel, either. Even though they are more durable than their plastic counterparts, they are much harder on your deck and can cause scratches, dents, and dings.

Use Caution When Salting Your Deck

When getting ready for winter, one of the first things you might think to do is salt your driveway, sidewalk, and deck. Whether or not you should use rock salt on your deck depends on what it is made of.

Most composite decks can be cleared of snow and ice with calcium chloride or rock salt. Calcium chloride or rock salt can be used on an older composite deck, but they should be rinsed off as soon as possible. But if your deck is made of wood, you might not want to salt it. Some deck finishes can be damaged by salt and ice melt, so you'll need to re-stain your deck in the spring to fix any discoloration.

More Things to Consider Before Winter

Winter can be hard on a deck because of cold winds, sheets of ice, and dirty, hard-to-melt mountains of snow, so there are some other things to think about.

Cover Your Deck with a Tarp for Winter

Some homeowners may find it easiest to just put a tarp over their deck and deck furniture. However, this only works if they don't plan to use their deck over the winter. Obviously, this is not a good choice for people who use their decks in the winter and have a hot tub, grill, or outdoor fireplace.

If you can't cover the whole deck, you should at least cover the furniture when it's not being used. Better yet, if you have space in a shed or garage, you could move the furniture there where it will be safe and secure.

When you use tarps, the wind is a big problem. To keep the wind from blowing the tarp away, it needs to be tied down well. Another problem with tarps is that they can hold water. Remove the tarp as soon as there is less chance of snow and ice.

Explore Composite Decking to Reduce Upkeep

Composite decking is more durable than wood and works well in cold weather. It lasts longer and needs less maintenance than wood decking, so you can spend more time enjoying your outdoor space. Even if you don't use your deck during the winter, your composite deck will be ready to go when the weather warms up again.

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