Few items added to the exterior of the home bring more pleasure as well as pain as does a wood deck or fence. They add warmth, security and a comfortable space for relaxation. There is something authentic about a real, wood deck made of cedar, pine or redwood that just invites inspection and admiration. But this all comes at a cost, not just to build, but to maintain. Depending on where you live, these expenses can be annual.
There are very few things that can sit in the weather, 365 days a year and not be affected by the sun, rain, and dirt and so it is unrealistic to expect any coating or treatment to last forever. If the deck has poor ventilation, is too close to the ground, has little or no space between the deck boards, and takes too long to dry out in the shade, there will be problems keeping a deck clean and protected. Typically in northern, moist climates, any horizontal surface will hold its treatment for 2-4 years if the surface was properly prepared to accept a high-quality sealer and the treatment was properly applied with vertical areas lasting about 5.
Anytime a property owner decides to take care of the wood, the process is important. Decks and fences should be thoroughly cleaned using mild detergents and wood restoration wash agents and evenly cleaned with low to moderate pressure. A professional power washing contractor will use just the right amount of pressure necessary to get the dirt and mildew out of the surface without raising the wood grain or damaging the soft fibers. Many DIY homeowners will rent or borrow a pressure washer and go at it, usually with lots of pressure (let’s face it, when it comes to power, the more the better, right? Not true.) and what once was a dirty deck is now a feathered, grooved, uneven looking space, aged 10 to 15 years just from that one operation.
Once the deck is cleaned, it must be treated to hold its natural beauty. Patience is important to this process! The deck must be dry before starting. When in doubt, check it out with a moisture meter. But a general rule is 2-3 days of good drying time is sufficient for the deck to dry out enough to accept the sealer and most sealers need a good 24 hours to cure before a rain. But don’t ignore the temperature – too hot or too cold will ruin the wood’s ability to accept most products. A nice warm day and you are ready to go, but if the temperature drops overnight, the wood can react and push the sealer right out of the pores, harden and leave you with a big mess.
Now, pick the right product. There are many producers of wood sealers with a variety of colors and I am not here to recommend any. But it is important to note that some just transfer materials that will evaporate after applied leaving only a small amount of protection. Talk to the professional and get their recommendation. Generally, adding color adds protection as color blocks the UV light damage, probably the biggest cause of sealer failure. Do not use a solid stain. These are just paints, often latex, that apply nicely and look good but will eventually fail, and when they fail, they must be stripped off, a time consuming and expensive process. All sealers should be penetrating, not topical and the oil-based products seem to last longer as they will work their way into the wood and will stay longer than the water-based products. Fences are a bit more forgiving but will still be susceptible to the same forces of nature, just not as rapidly.
So go ahead and build that deck. But remember to budget for annual or semi-annual pressure washing maintenance to keep it looking great for years. Give us a call to schedule your decking cleaning today!