How To Maintain a Wooden Deck

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Our homes, especially our decks, take a lot of abuse from the elements every year. From bitter cold and heavy snow to blistering heat and violent storms, it’s little wonder they require regular maintenance. Without regular cleaning and sealing, wooden decks can start to look dingy and worn out within just a few years. Even worse, rotting wood can compromise the integrity of the entire structure leading to collapse and endangering family and friends.

Why Is Yearly Deck Maintenance Necessary?

The surface of your deck is its only line of defense against the moisture. Exposed to the elements all year long, the sun can literally burn and crack the surface of your decking material. Scratches and gouges from normal wear and tear, hail storms, and loosened nails caused by structural settling also compromise your deck’s “seal” against the elements. With these openings, rain, snow and just plain humidity can inject moisture into the wood. Once this happens, your deck gets more surface cracks as wood fibers start to pull apart from the constant expansion and contraction created by the changing moisture content. Once the moisture penetrates the surface, mold, mildew and rot can set in.

Cleaning and then staining, sealing or painting the wood’s surface is the primary method for maintaining a strong, beautiful deck.

Steps for cleaning and sealing your deck

  • First check for any loose boards, nails or rotten wood. Make repairs prior to cleaning the deck.
  • Before you apply any type of finish or paint to a wood deck, remove any existing finish or dirt. You can use a power washer to clean your deck, but be careful not to crank the pressure up too high to avoid “etching” or otherwise damaging the wood surface. Most experts recommend no higher than 500-700 psi of power. Make sure you spray evenly across all the boards to avoid streaks or stripes. If you use any kind of “wood brightener” or cleaning chemical, make sure you rinse thoroughly and let dry before staining.
  • Sand if necessary. After a deep power washing, wood fibers may rise up as the wood expands with the water. As a result, after drying, the wood fibers remain raised and may cause splinters. It’s important to let the wood dry completely before sanding. Depending on the weather, a deck will take 2-3 days to dry after a thorough power washing.
  • Make sure your deck is completely dry for at least 2 days before staining or sealing the deck. If possible, do the work when there is no rain in the forecast for at least a few days after you stain or seal for the best finish.

Timing is Everything

It’s critical not to rush through this process. If you skip any step or fail to wait until the wood is completely dry before moving to the next step, the surface will not seal properly and your deck will continue to be exposed to the elements. Cleaning and sealing a deck is certainly something you can do yourself or you can hire this job out. In the Cedar Rapids / Iowa City area, you can hire a contractors to stain your deck  for between $1.42 – $2.62 per square foot.

If you want to skip the hassle and expense of cleaning and staining your wood deck every year, consider replacing it with one of our Maintenance Free Decks. Remember, whenever you hire a contractor to work on your home, be sure to do your homework. If you are ready to add a new deck or replace an existing one, download our FREE Deck Planning Checklist to get started on your plan.