In addition to providing a relaxing retreat, a great entertainment area or a way to add significant value to your property, a well-maintained backyard deck can also help you reduce stress and promote a healthier lifestyle.
In this case, size doesn’t matter—anything from small size decks to large custom decks give each family member the perfect location to kick back, forget the day’s problems and enjoy the fresh air in their private backyard space. If you’ve got an established deck area or are trying to figure out how to build the perfect deck, you’ll want to keep it looking like new.
Here are the top 5 ways to do that:
1) Get an early start
Seasonal changes and winter snow can wreak havoc on your deck, so it’s a good idea to identify problem areas as soon as the weather breaks. Of course, spring is the best time to schedule your annual deck inspection, but it’s not too late to check for cosmetic repairs that might be needed, such as: protruding nails, loose screws or fasteners, cracked or split boards, rotting wood or mildew growth. Make sure to test the railing sections for strength and stability.
Even more important is an inspection of the support framing under the deck. Weaknesses should be detected to prevent aesthetic issues like warping or twisting as well as the potential for structural failure or collapse.
- Look at the ledger board that attaches the deck to the house, posts and joists. Make sure all components are free from splintering and decay. Rotting wood will appear soft and spongy when an ice pick or screwdriver is pushed into it.
- Confirm the metal or plastic flashing is secured and free from rust and deterioration.
- Tighten any loose fasteners, lag screws and bolts. Pound in any raised nails.
- Check for holes in the wood or other insect damage.
- Identify any pest damage to the frame or posts.
While you’re down at ground level, it’s critical to look for poor water drainage or pooling water. Protect your home’s foundation and your deck’s support structure by correcting any grading or settling issues immediately. Always consult with an expert if repairs are beyond your capabilities.
2) Clean it up
The easiest way to keep your deck looking like new is to power wash it every year.
- Use a special deck cleaner solution made specifically for your decking material. This will also prevent mold and mildew from growing.
- Whether you own or rent a pressure washer, take care to use a fan tip nozzle, hold it a least 8 inches away from the surface of the deck, keep the wand moving, and follow the grain so you don’t damage the wood.
- Preventative maintenance, like raising planters to prevent dirt build-up, using a grease catcher on your grill, regular sweeping to keep leaves and dirt from staining, and shoveling snow off immediately, will all help to minimize unsightly damage.
3) Seal and protect it
Did you know that when you sell your home, you can recoup up to 76% of any money you’ve invested in your backyard deck? With that amount of money at stake, it makes perfect sense to protect your investment from deterioration by applying stain or sealant.
Be careful to remove or smooth out any loose paint, stain or splinters by lightly sanding before applying protectant. Don’t forget to treat the railings and balusters to match the floor. Follow these treatment guidelines for each type of decking material:
- Pressure-treated lumber—apply stain or wood preservative every two or three years. A combination of distilled vinegar and water can be used to remove old move stains.
- Redwood and cedar—to maintain the wood’s natural colour, apply a semi-transparent stain or water-repellent wood preservative every three to four years.
- Tropical hardwoods—these exotic woods are extremely hard and durable but will require annual oiling that will help to keep the original colour. Sealing the ends of the boards will prevent cracking.
- Composites and plastic lumber—although these low-maintenance products won’t require stain or sealant, they will need to be cleaned regularly with soapy water to remove stains, mold and mildew. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to prevent residue build-up.
Whether you have a 10-year-old medium size deck or a brand new, multi-level backyard retreat, it’s important to protect your deck against the elements. Leaving it unprotected from moisture will cause the wood to swell. Exposure to the sun will cause the wood to shrink and dry. And the alternating expansion and shrinkage will produce warping, cupping, cracking and discolouration.
4) The extras
Today’s decks aren’t complete without a wide variety of accessories. Those items will also require some general maintenance to keep them looking fresh and the deck safe.
- Warm things up with fire pits, heaters, grills, chimineas and candles, but make sure to keep them away from flammable surfaces. Clean up grease spills quickly to prevent permanent damage. Keep a non-flammable pad under each heat source to prevent burns.
- Lights and electrical outlets should be working properly and placed on steps and walkways to keep the area safe after dark. Add childproof covers to electrical outlets and keep cords out of traffic areas to prevent tripping.
- Choose outdoor furniture with fabric that is UV-treated, repels water and is mildew and stain resistant. Rearrange furniture often to prevent the deck from discolouring underneath it.
- Lock up chemical products including cleaners, matches and lighter fluid to keep away from small children and reduce the chance for spills.
5) Consistency counts
Keeping your deck looking like new will take a commitment of time and energy. Establishing a weekly routine for cleaning and landscape maintenance will reduce the need for a major overhaul later.
- Trim bushes and plants so they’re at least 12 inches away from the deck. This will prevent rot and moss from growing.
- Cut back tree branches that overhang the deck. This will reduce the chance of falling limbs, leaves, nuts or seeds from falling and damaging the deck.
- Sweep away leaves, pine needles and dead flower petals regularly. This will help prevent mold and mildew from building up.
- Prepare your deck for winter by removing and storing furniture, planters, grills and other extras. Remove heavy snow with a plastic shovel and broom, and avoid using chemicals and salt to reduce damage to the deck’s surface.
Follow these guidelines, and you’ll have many years of enjoyment with your backyard deck.