When you’re thinking about ways to improve your home, a deck should be at the top of the list. It’s an affordable addition and adds entertaining and dining space where you can soak in some sunshine, breathe in fresh air and boost your mood.
Decks don’t last forever, as they endure the seasons and the elements all year round. The wood in your deck can begin to deteriorate in as little as eight years, if not protected. Making your deck last longer doesn’t have to be difficult if you are intentional with maintenance and are proactive during construction by incorporating butyl tape into your plans.
The three simple steps for deck protection? Build in protection, clean regularly and seal the wood.
Build in protection
Whether you choose to build with wood or composite boards, the beams and joists in your deck are likely made of wood. As water seeps through the boards and moisture gets trapped in between, your wood fibers can begin to breakdown in less than a decade. Additionally, water can enter through the deck’s screws holes. Once it gets into these spaces, it sits on the wood causing it to rot and the screws to rust. In areas with especially hot and wet weather, the damage happens more quickly.
How can you avoid this damage? The answer: high-quality butyl flashing tape. Adhesives come in three main varieties: silicon-based, rubber-based or acrylic-based. Butyl adhesives, part of the rubber category, are less temperature-sensitive and maintain their stickiness at much lower temperatures than natural rubber.
Butyl tape instantly adheres to most surfaces and bonds well in applications where moisture is a factor. Additionally, butyl tape is easy to use. Simply apply it over the substructure to protect all of the deck’s horizontal and vertical surfaces.
Keep it clean
Once your deck is built, a simple but important next step is to keep it clean. While this may seem to happen naturally, as rain washes away dirt and debris, it also can cause little piles of leaves to accumulate in a corner or dirt to fall between the boards. Potted plants that sit on your deck boards can hold in water and also cause tannin stains. A grill can produce a lot of grease and dirt unless you use a grill mat.
The answer is good, regular cleaning. Sweep often and try to get between the boards to ensure no muck builds up. Clean with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly at least a couple of times a year. Please note that use of products containing bleach or acid will lighten the surface of composite boards.
You might be tempted to use a power washer; however, you need to be aware of the damage it may cause. If you have wooden deck boards, a power washer’s pressure may cause splintering. Even with composite decking, made of plastics, a power washer can do damage if the pressure is too high.
If you choose to use your power washer anyway, be sure to lower the pressure, use a fan tip and keep the wand at least two feet off the ground. If you hire a professional, be sure to ask for someone with deck experience.
If you forgo the pressure washer, you’ll need a broom, hose, bristle brush, and soap. Here is a simple, step-by-step process for cleaning without a power washer:
- Remove anything on your deck boards (furniture, grill, etc.).
- Test your cleaner on a small area.
- Hose it down with water and apply a cleaning solution with a bristle brush.
- Scrub the entire deck.
- Rinse well, ensuring the soap doesn’t leave a film.
- Let the deck completely dry before moving furniture back in place.
Seal the wood
If you have exposed wood on your deck, especially the deck boards and railings, you’ll need to plan to seal the wood every few years (depending on the foot traffic on your deck and sun exposure). Deck sealants coat wood fibers, much like wax covers and protects a car’s paint job. Deck stain can be semi-translucent or opaque and comes in a variety of colors.
If you’re not sure when to seal, do a quick test. Put a few drops of water on the wood and see how quickly it is absorbed. If it instantly absorbs into the wood, it’s time to seal.
Here is an easy step-by-step guide to sealing from Decks.com:
- Be sure you’ll have temperatures between 10 and 32 °C.
- Clean the deck surface (see above).
- Sand, if needed, to ensure the sealer adequately penetrates the wood. Make sure all dust is cleaned away.
- Stir, don’t shake, the sealer.
- Apply the sealer with a brush, paint roller, or sprayer. Begin with a thin coat and reapply as needed.
- Let it dry.
Protecting your deck from the start, keeping it clean and sealing the wood will make a world of difference. Make a little time now and enjoy your deck for years to come.