How do I keep my deck looking great?

Sitting out on the deck enjoying a drink or barbeque with friends is one of the quintessentially awesome things about summer. So keeping your deck in great condition is important. Regular maintenance will help to ensure that your deck lasts for many years and that many more great memories can be made there. It will also help you to catch any problems early and avoid more costly repairs down the road. A maintenance schedule can help keep you on track.

Late Spring – Cleaning

When you’re doing your spring cleaning, don’t neglect your deck. A dirty deck is more prone to mold and mildew. Clean debris from between deck boards using a putty knife, remembering to get into areas where deck boards cross joists. Then sweep and clean your deck with the appropriate cleaner. And remember when you use any chemical cleaner to protect surrounding plants with a cover, and wear your own protective clothing as well.

Late Spring – Sealing

Late spring is generally a good time for re-coating your deck following the instructions in question 7. The timing is good because the weather is dryer than it is in early spring but still not so hot as to make the job overly uncomfortable or to cause significant problems with evaporation.

Midsummer – Repair

Inspecting your deck at least once a year and repairing any minor issues is a good way to avoid major repairs down the road. When you get some days of warm, dry weather it is an ideal time to do some deck inspection. Typical problems areas that you’ll want to pay close attention to are any areas where there could be water buildup such as next to planters, downspouts or any area that is within six inches from the ground.

Look for signs of rot by probing structural areas with a flat blade screwdriver. You should not be able to push a screwdriver more than a quarter inch in – if you can, you likely have rot. If you discover very small areas of rot (no bigger than a silver dollar), these can be repaired by chipping out the rot and then repairing the hole with a wood preservative. Larger areas of rot will likely require replacement of the boards in question.

Of utmost importance in this annual inspection is to use a flashlight to inspect the ledger under the deck. The ledger is the piece of framing that attaches your deck to the rest of the house. Ninety percent of all deck collapses are the result of a faulty or damaged ledger.

The metal cap covering the top of the ledger (called the flashing) should be in good condition – no rust, no holes.

Check any remaining beams, joists and posts and replace any hardware that is badly rusted. If anything looks questionable, call a contractor to have it repaired. Finally, check the railing to make sure that is secure and that you won’t have a guest who inadvertently ends up in your rose bush when they put their weight on the railing. Loose railing connections can often be remedied with galvanized lag screws but if you are in doubt, call a contractor.

Early Fall – Preventative Maintenance

In Canada at least, fall your last chance in the season for washing and sealing if you didn’t get to it earlier in the year.

Other steps that you should take during this time are trimming nearby shrubby, sweeping away fall leaves moving planters to avoid moisture buildup.

There is no doubt that maintaining a deck requires work, but when you have deck that looks great for many years, it is clear that the effort is certainly worth it.

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