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Keeping your deck clean and well maintained is essential for enjoying it all summer long. Here are some cleaning and maintenance basics.

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Has the winter done a number on your deck? Rain and snow can leave dirt on your patio space, and deck cleaning is a Spring must. Letting dirt accumulate on your deck can cause all sorts of problems, including mold, mildew and rot.

Here is how to clean up your deck in the spring so you can enjoy a wonderful outdoor space all summer long.

Clear up the deck

Winter has come and gone, and now it’s time to clear up the gunk from your deck and give it a good wash. Start by clearing dust and debris with a broom. This will take care of the worst of it and let you find places where debris has stuck to the deck.

Then, use a putty knife to carefully scrape off whatever is stuck to the deck boards. Give a careful look to where the boards meet the joist. Lots of gunk gets trapped there, and it can cause a lot of problems down the road. A tip: stick your putty knife in a 1 1/4 inch PVC pipe to save your knees and scrape from a standing position.

Sweep the deck off one last time, and cover plants and shrubs near your deck with plastic. You wouldn’t want to damage them with the deck washing liquid.

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Wash the deck

Then it’s time to apply the washing liquid. Make sure to choose the proper solution for your deck material; composite and wood require different solutions. Note that a PVC deck can be cleaned with mild soap and water. Note that you should NEVER use a pressure washer on composite decking!

Wash your deck on a cloudy day so that the sun doesn’t evaporate the washing solution. Follow the instructions on the label for a proper clean. Another tip: when cleaning the railing, start from the bottom and move up. Splatter from the washing solution can stain dry wood; starting from the bottom means any splatter goes to already wet surfaces.

Wait at least two days after to begin the staining and sealing process.

Browse for deck cleaners.

Seal or stain the deck

Although sealing should be done every year, you can get away with staining about once every two years. You should do this over two days with clear skies and moderate temperatures. April or May are usually excellent months!

Begin by sanding the deck with an 80-grit paper. You don’t need to sand too hard; you just need to remove any fuzz left over by the cleaner.

Replace any nails and screws that are missing or obviously popping up from the deck. If a nail is only coming slightly out of the deck, you can simply hammer it back in instead of trying to pull it out, which can potentially damage the deck.

Then, you can apply the sealant or stain with a large roller, about the width of three or four boards. Have smaller rollers and brushes handy for railings and planters.

We suggest applying two thin coats of sealant rather than one big one; using too much sealant at once increases the risk of pooling (a bad thing) and will slow the drying process down.

Composite decks don’t need a sealant, but may benefit from a stain to restore its original color.

Keep an eye out all year long

While you are enjoying your deck during the summer, make sure to regularly sweep dust and debris off, and keep an eye out for appearing mold, mildew and rot. Check the structural elements of your deck—joists, pillars and ledgers—for signs of rot. 90% of deck collapses are caused by ledger problems!

It’s important to make sure the structural elements are always in good condition. Do not hesitate to make repairs whenever needed.

In the fall, before you abandon your deck for the winter, you can trim the plants and nearby shrubs, sweep regularly to avoid piles of decaying leaves, and remove tables and chairs to avoid discoloration.

Cleaning your deck and keeping it in good condition will let you enjoy it for years to come.

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Anabelle Bernard Fournier

Anabelle is a freelance writer, writing teacher and blogger. She spends a lot of time at home, so she likes to make sure that it's cozy and nice, especially in her reading nook. In her free time, Anabelle knits, walks and learns how to write stories.