Like most people, you probably spend a good deal of time on your deck. You barbecue gourmet meals, host backyard get-together’s with neighbors, and even enjoy your morning coffee on it. It is an important part of the place you call home. Because it is such a special place, not to mention a large investment, maintaining it properly should be a priority. I consulted with my Sparkle Wash Deck Washing and Restoration Specialist on what steps need to be taken to keep your deck looking beautiful for years to come. Check out these 4 tips on maintaining your deck.

Tip #1: Clean Your Wood Deck Properly
Before you can stain or protect your wood surface you need to have it cleaned and prepped properly. Different cleaning techniques are used depending on whether the wood is weathered or brand new.

For Weathered Wood: Restoring weathered wood involves either cleaning or stripping the surface. If your wood is uncoated, it needs to be cleaned thoroughly with a product specifically formulated to gently remove the aged top surface layer, which will rid the surface of its grayed appearance, ground-in dirt and stains from food splatters and fungus growth, including mildew, mold and algae. If your wood has been previously coated with a varnish or colored stain, stripping will be required.
Why is this necessary? Uncoated wood that is weathered gray or covered with embedded dirt and fungus growth will prevent a coating from adhering or penetrating properly, which can lead to premature color fading, cracking and peeling, or reduced water repellency performance. Once cleaned, however, your wood surface will be restored to its natural, like-new appearance, and will be ready to accept a protective coating. Previously varnished or stained wood will not accept a different type (water-base over oil-base) or color of coating without risk of performance failure and color bleed-through, and therefore, should be stripped before re-coating.

For New Wood: Before coating or staining new wood, you must prepare the surface which involves cleaning the brand new, uncoated surface in order to remove invisible surface barriers, such as excess wax found on pressure-treated wood, or mill glaze, a burnished surface often present on new Cedar lumber.
Why is it necessary? Brand new lumber that has been processed at a lumber mill (either pressure-treated or simply de-barked, planed and cut) will contain excess internal moisture and surface wax, or possibly a glazed surface that will prevent a coating from adhering or penetrating properly. By cleaning the surface, invisible barrier wax or mill glaze is removed, and wood pores are unclogged and opened, allowing trapped moisture to escape, which minimizes cracking and splitting before and after coating.

Tip #2: Protect the Cleaned Wood Surface with a Sealer
After cleaning, you should apply a clear, water repellent sealer, a water repellent toner or pigmented stain, or a wood preservative coating, depending on the level of protection and finish look you want to achieve.

Why is it necessary? Wood that is exposed to outdoor weather will eventually warp, split, rot and decay from water absorption, and gray from UV exposure. To stop this degradation, apply a protective coating fortified with water repellent and UV resistance. Non-pressure-treated wood is also vulnerable to rot and decay from fungus and insect attack, but can be protected with a wood preservative. Once coated, your wood will better withstand the elements, look beautiful, and give you many seasons of outdoors living pleasure.

Tip #3: Protect Your Deck with the Right Stain
Your home’s deck is at risk of damage from two main sources – rain and sun. These natural destroyers wreak havoc on unprotected wood. There are several different types of deck stain designed to protect the lumber of a deck from rot and decay, each with its own pros and cons. Your Sparkle Wash specialist will work with you to determine the correct product to use on your deck based on the climate and the overall condition of your deck.

Deck paint/solid color deck stain – This type of deck stain provides the best protection from moisture and UV rays, but it doesn’t allow the natural beauty of the wood to show through. Although deck paint may last 5 to 7 years, maintenance can be very time consuming and costly, usually requiring a total stripping or sanding of the deck back to bare wood prior to re-application.
Clear deck sealants – These are not stains at all. They are sealers that contain no color. While they provide decent moisture protection and allow the wood’s beauty to shine, they provide little to no UV protection. Because a clear deck sealant contains no UV-protection, the coating will typically last 6 to 24 months before a cleaning and re-application is required.
Transparent deck stains – These stains contain a small amount of color that offers some protection from the sun’s rays. The main benefit of this type of stain is that it adds color to the wood without obstructing characteristics such as knots and grain. Transparent deck coatings will typically last 6 to 36 months before a cleaning and re-application is required. Maintenance of transparent deck stain products may be very time consuming, sometimes requiring a total stripping or sanding of the deck back to bare wood prior to re-application. Semi-transparent deck stains –
Semi-transparent stains – Offer the most pigmented color without covering the natural beauty of the wood. This also affords superior UV protection as well. Unfortunately, these stains often do not include a sealer for moisture protection, so a clear coat will be necessary. Semi-Transparent deck coatings will typically last 1 to 7 years before a cleaning and re-application is required. Maintenance of semi-transparent deck stain products varies with the formulation, but generally will be very time consuming, sometimes requiring a total stripping or sanding of the deck back to bare wood prior to re-application.

Tip #4: Schedule Annual Deck Cleaning and Maintenance.
Even if you protect your deck with a good quality stain, it still requires routine attention to keep it looking great. In addition, having it cleaned and maintained regularly protects it from costly repairs in the future.

Each deck stain listed above offers a different time length of protection. The more highly pigmented stains and paints offer longer protection times than the transparent or clear finishes. How often you should clean and maintain your deck depends on this length of time as well as how much wear and tear your deck receives. For instance, heavily used decks might require attention sooner than those that see little foot traffic.

Regular maintenance should include pressure washing to remove any chipping paint or stain, as well as get rid of any fungi or mold that has made a home in your deck’s wood. After cleaning, stain should be re-applied if necessary. Regularly maintaining your deck in this manner is much less costly than making major repairs or board replacements down the road.

Call your local Sparkle Wash professional to schedule a pressure washing today!