8 Frequently Asked Questions about Decking Care & Maintenance
From cookouts to relaxing in the evenings, a deck is a great way to enjoy the outdoors without having to leave your house. But at some point it’s going to require maintenance to keep it looking pristine and structurally sound. Let’s take a look at how you can deal with the 8 most common issues that could crop up over the course of your deck’s lifetime.
1) How to Remove Stains and Discoloration
Whether you have a wood or composite deck, you’ll have to deal with stains and discoloration over time. This can be caused by mold, especially with composite decking. A mold problem is an even bigger issue if your deck is in a shaded area or stays wet throughout the day. However, mold isn’t just a problem unique to composite decks. Wood decks also have to deal with mold, algae, and mildew.
To see if the black spots on your wood deck are mildew, apply a drop of undiluted bleach to a spot. If it disappears after a few minutes, you can clean your deck with a mild cleanser and rinse it off with a solution of four parts water and one part liquid bleach. On your composite deck, use a soft bristle brush and soapy, warm water to clean off any mold or mildew.
2) How to Prevent Slippery Decking
Not only can mold and mildew stain your deck, it can also cause your deck to become slippery. After you remove the mold or mildew, apply a water-repellent stain and let it dry for at least 48 hours. If you live in a rainy or humid area, you can add a mildewcide to the stain for further protection.
If your deck seems especially prone to slippery areas, you can apply a marine-grade anti-slip decking product. This type of product contains sand in the paint to provide extra traction. Finally, you can apply self-adhesive strips that have a coarse grit surface to the front edges of the steps for extra grip there as well.
3) How to Fix Warped Decking
One of the most common wooden decking problems is warping. This usually occurs if the deck isn’t properly weather treated or if it sees a lot of harsh weather conditions. Boards that are very warped will be easy to notice because they’ll have some extreme curvature and will likely have nails popping up. Boards that are just starting to warp will be easy to spot if you get eye level with the deck.
Once you spot a warped board to be replaced, use a pry bar to remove it from the deck. Use a board that is not warped to get the measurements to cut your new plank of wood. Slide the new board into place and hammer two galvanized nails into each section of the crossbeam to attach the new board to the deck.
4) How to Fill Gaps in Decking
While you might be tempted to fill in gaps in your decking with wood filler or caulk, the natural movement of the boards can eventually cause the materials to break loose and make the gaps even worse. However, you can use rope to easily fill the gaps. Then even if the size of the gaps changes, you can simply refill it with new rope.
After you clean the deck, cut a sufficient amount of natural fiber rope that will fit the length of each gap. Don’t use synthetic rope because stain and paint won’t adhere to the material. Make sure the rope is slightly wider than the gap so you’ll have a tight fit. Next, pour stain or paint that matches your deck into a bucket, and put the rope in the bucket. Allow it to sit long enough so that it reaches the desired color.
After the rope has dried, insert it into one end of the gap and use a flat-head screwdriver to push the rope into the gap until you reach the other end of the board. Use a utility knife to cut the end of the rope and repeat the same procedure to fill in any other gaps.
5) How to Replace Deck Boards
If you have damaged sections in any of your deck boards, you can replace them with new pieces to keep your deck strong and looking good. To start, cut out the bad pieces using a jigsaw. If you want your new boards to match the old pieces, you need to replace the bad pieces with the same species of wood. After you remove the board, smell it to see if you can identify the species. If not, take a sample with you to the lumberyard and an employee will help you match the board.
Measure the length of space you need your new board to cover and use a circular saw to trim the lumber to the correct size. For a smooth cut, flip the board over so you start the cut on the bottom of the board. Circular saw teeth cut from the bottom up, so positioning the board this way will give the bottom of the board a cleaner cut. Also, when you’re cutting the board, make sure you won’t end up with a knot on the end. This could weaken the board and cause warping.
6) How to Restore Decking Color
The best way to restore color on your deck is to paint or stain it again. Choose a stain that contains either paraffin or oil to keep moisture from soaking into the wood. If you’re not going for a weathered and gray look, you should also look for a stain that has UV blockers to prevent the rays of the sun from damaging the color. Finally, if your area is subject to wood-eating bugs, choose a stain that also contains an insecticide.
If you choose to paint your deck, make sure you use an alkyd primer or stain-blocking oil before you paint. To apply either stain or paint, use a paint roller or pump-style sprayer. Make sure you stand back every few minutes to examine the finish and check for an even coat.
If you want to touch up small areas like scratches and scuff on your composite deck, try out a touch up concealer.
7) How to Care for a Wood Deck
Wood rot is a major issue for wood decks. If your deck is made from pressure-treated lumber rated for ground contact, it will be more resistant to rot. On the other hand, if it’s made from untreated wood, there’s a greater risk of rot. However, any wood can rot, especially if it stays wet long enough. Most rot occurs in hard-to-see places, such as the underside of stair treads and under the decking boards, so if possible crawl under your deck when you’re looking for rotten boards.
If you find a board with rot that’s less than a half-inch deep, it can be left in place. However, boards with rot larger than that need to be replaced. Use a pry bar to remove the rotten boards and replace them with a pressure-treated and rot-resistant board.
8) How to Fix Deck Scratches
Composite decks are prone to scratches and scrapes from heavy play or moving outdoor furniture. Solutions for this issue vary depending on product type and manufacturer. Most manufacturers recommend not working on the scrapes or scratches because they will blend in with the rest of the deck over time. If you have a large or noticeable scratch, other manufacturers suggest using a soldering iron to even the scratch out and let it blend in with the rest of the deck. If you have a deep scratch or heavy damage, you might need to replace the entire board.
These DIY decking maintenance tips will let you continue to enjoy your outdoor space and help keep your deck looking beautiful for years to come.
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