Deck railings are easy to install, make your deck a safe place, and add a touch of refinement to your yard. And with so many styles available, railings also provide a unique touch. Developing a few care habits will help you keep your railings in as good condition as when you initially installed them. As they say: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is certainly true for any building material, including deck railings. With that in mind, here are some tips for maintaining your deck railings so they serve you for years to come:
Wash them with your deck
Whenever you clean your deck, also get the railings. This should happen a couple of times a year with a few spot-cleaning sessions in between. Doing both at the same time makes getting all the corners easier, helps you remember to get the railings, and ensures both deck components look the same – if one has more dirt than the other, you may be able to see the difference.
Start from the bottom up
When you do wash your railings, begin the process near the base and work your way up. This method prevents you from splattering the cleaning solution on a dry area of your railing. Some cleaning solutions can discolor wood decks if splashed on a dry spot. Working bottom up ensures that the areas below are wet, so cleaning solution is less likely to leave marks.
By this same logic, wash your deck before hitting the railings but make sure to dampen the railing during this process. That way, just about anything you could splatter with cleaners will be safe.
Clean with the right supplies
Deck railings come in a variety of materials, including wood, composite, aluminum and vinyl. The panels can also be made of glass. Each material responds best to a certain kind of cleaning solution and routine. Here are various railing materials and how to safely clean them:
You can use a wood deck cleaner to wash wood railings and balusters. Follow the directions on your product – some require the deck to be dry while others say to wash a wet deck. If the wood has to be wet, spray the railing with a garden hose set to a gentle spray. You can use a scrub brush to clean your railing.
Either use a cleaner formulated for composite decking or mild soap and water to wash this type of railing. If you notice grease on your railing (touching the railing after eating greasy foods can spread grime), use a standard degreaser to remove the mark.
Wipe aluminum deck railings with a damp cloth. Add mild detergent to warm water and use the mixture to wash the rail. Rinse it off with your garden hose and let dry.
Vinyl requires little maintenance. Simply rinse with a garden hose to get rid of dust. You can use a deck scrubber and water to remove built-up dirt. Rinse when you’re done scrubbing.
Your deck railing will only have glass as panels, not as supports. In which case, you’ll have to wash two materials: supports and glass panels. Follow cleaning instructions for the other material, and use a glass cleaner to get rid of smudges on the glass.
With all of these materials, try to wash your railings on a sunny day. This helps the material dry quickly, preventing water from standing on your material. Additionally, avoid using strong cleaning chemicals, such as acetone, to wash your railings.
“Twice a year, thoroughly inspect your railings.”
Check for signs of wear
Outdoor materials face a lot of weather conditions that can cause marks and erosion over time. From rain to snow to wind to debris, the elements toss a lot at your deck railings. Twice a year, thoroughly inspect your railings (along with the rest of your deck). Fall and spring are ideal times to do this, as it will give you the opportunity to prepare your railings for winter and repair any damage caused by the winter season. Here are some issues you should look for:
- Rusted screws or nails
- Loose or wobbly railings
Each of these issues is pretty common and occurs as a result of being outside and used regularly. What’s more, they’re easy to fix. Simply replace rusted screws and nails. Minor cracks in wood railings can be fixed with exterior-grade wood filler. Sweep and clean debris. Add blocks to the deck’s rim joist to make loose railings more secure. If you spot discoloration, choose the proper stain remover for your railing material and follow the instructions.
Use best practices
Aside from regularly cleaning your deck railings and checking them for damage, you should use them with care to prevent other issues. Here are some tips for everyday use that will keep your railings in good shape:
- Don’t lean heavy objects against the railing
- Don’t pressure wash deck railings
- Remove debris (such as bird droppings or fallen leaves) as soon as you notice it
- Be careful not to knock objects into glass railings
Keeping your deck railings in great shape is easy. By using these care and maintenance tips regularly, your deck railings will serve you from one season to the next.
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