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Expert tips for prolonging the life of your deck and how to keep it looking great

While it’s tempting to convince yourself that your pressure treated, stained, and sealed deck or fencing will last forever, don’t go down that shady path! Instead, be a proactive homeowner and plan on performing ongoing, routine maintenance throughout the year so that your outdoor living room stays in tip-top shape.

For many homeowners, glorious Nashville days make outdoor living and entertaining a three season (maybe even three and a half) affair. To ensure you keep your fresh air parties going and looking good while you’re out there, here are a few seasonal tips from the experts about keeping your deck and outdoor living spaces looking in tip-top shape.

Spring Cleaning and Deck Protection

Even if your deck is made from sturdy pressure treated pine or exotic Brazilian hardwood, designed to resist decay and hungry insects, it’s still wood. If you think you’re off the hook because your decking material is composite or vinyl, think again. As spring heats up and the humidity begins to soar, an unwashed deck is an open party invitation for mold and mildew. So strap on your knee pads and start scrubbing.

  1. Remove dirt, stems, leaves, and insects from between the deck boards and along the cross joints using a stiff brush or putty knife.
  2. Thoroughly sweep the deck using a high-quality outdoor broom.
  3. Check for rotten, warped, or splintered boards. Replace severely damaged boards or sand them smooth, as necessary.
  4. Select an appropriate cleanser (read labels carefully) for your decking material.
  5. Check the weather report and aim for an overcast day (followed by a few days of blue skies) when the decking is cool and the sun won’t evaporate the cleaner too quickly.
  6. Protect surrounding landscaping with a canvas tarp or a breathable drop cloth.
  7. Read cleanser directions closely, but generally, for wood decks, use a paint roller, garden sprayer or stiff brush to apply the cleaner. Do not allow the cleaner to dry on the deck until you’ve scrubbed it clean. Rinse with water. Use a soft brush on composite and vinyl decks and avoid pressure washing.
  8. Allow the deck to dry thoroughly for up to two days.
  9. Determine whether or not you need to apply stain or sealer by pouring a few drops of water on the boards, if the water beads, you’re good to go. If the drops are quickly absorbed into the wood, apply waterproofing sealer or a fresh coat of stain.

Summer Deck Inspections

From cool and moist to hot and humid, summer is the best time to give your deck a good once-over, for safety’s sake. So put on a pair of around the house jeans and grab a flashlight.

  1. Pay close attention to the areas of your deck or fence line that are relatively close the ground or near downspouts, faucets, or landscaping features, inspect for indications of rot. Using a regular screwdriver, poke around for damp or soft areas. Look closely at all structural members and perimeter posts. If you can push the screwdriver a quarter-inch or more, then you probably have rot. If the area of rot is relatively small and can be removed with a chisel, treat the area with wood preservative and seal.
  2. Next, take a look at the ledger — the piece of framing that attached your deck to your home. Make sure that it is securely attached with lag screws and that the flashing is free of rust and holes.
  3. Inspect all joists, posts, beams and joist hangers replace any that appear rusted, show signs of rot or are otherwise damaged. As framing members cannot be easily replaced, be sure to securely reinforce it with a pressure-treated lumber, using 3-inch decking screws at 8- to 12-inch intervals. Finally, chip the rotten areas away and treat the remaining wood with preservative and sealer.
  4. Make sure that your railings are secure and sturdy. If you have loose screws, you can drill pilot holes and add galvanized lag screws. If cracks have appeared near fasteners, remove the screw, seal the crack, and drill a new hole and secure with a new deck screw.
  5. Finally, look at the surface boards themselves, if you see large cracks or potentially damaging splinters, it’s time to do some maintenance. Fill cracks and sand rough boards or replace the offending board altogether.

Autumn Deck and Fencing: Prevention is the Best Medicine

  1. If you didn’t clean your deck and fencing thoroughly in the spring, now’s the time to do it!
  2. Trim bushes and trees to keep them at least a foot from your deck or fence line to slow the progression of mold, moss, discoloration, and rot and to reduce the likelihood of a fallen limb damage.
  3. Give your deck a good sweeping after the final leaves have fallen.

For professional deck and fencing maintenance, repair, and painting, Stratton Exteriors can help. Contact us today for an estimate.