May is National Deck Safety Month, so do your family a favor and get yours in shape for summer. That means a good safety check as well as basic maintenance.
Most wood decks are made of pressure-treated pine or red cedar. Make it a seasonal habit to check for weak spots, signs of wood rot and instability in posts and framework. Don’t let the surface suffer, either.
“You should reseal your deck every two to three years with either a clear or semi-transparent stain,” Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks said. “The easiest way to find out whether it’s time to tackle your deck is to drop some water on it. If it beads up nicely, you can wait a little longer. If it soaks in, it’s time to re-stain.”
This can be a do-it-yourself project, but you can do more damage than good if you’re not careful. Use a power washer, but don’t use too much pressure or spray too close to the wood.
“You want to keep the tip of your power washer at least six inches away from the wood at all times, and you want to keep it pretty much at a constant elevation and always keeping it in motion,” said John Nearon of Exterior Wood Restoration. “If you stop or dwell in an area, you’re likely to leave a mark in the wood that will be very difficult to remove.”
After your power wash, let the deck dry out, then apply the stain or sealer. A penetrating, oil-based stain is usually better than a water-based product that just coats the surface.
“If you use something that forms a film, it behaves like a paint,” Nearon said. “You almost have to get that 100 percent off either by sanding or by chemical stripping, and that becomes very arduous.”
If you find problems with your deck, don’t wait to fix it. You, your family and guests will be out there a lot this summer. Don’t risk their safety.
If taking care of your deck seems like too much to tackle this summer, Angie says it’s a project worth hiring out. If you take care of your deck, it can last 20 years or more. If you don’t, you’re risking more than a splinter.