Likely your favorite summer hang-out spot for family get-togethers and grill-outs, your deck can get worn down from foot traffic and weather elements over the years. Just like any part of your home, your deck requires annual repair, cleaning, and protection to keep its livelihood. Use these DIY tips to spruce up a lived-on deck!
Start out the process by inspecting the entire deck, paying special attention to any part that is in direct contact with the ground like posts, stairways, and joists. Use a screwdriver to check for structural damage; if you can sink the tip of a screwdriver into a post, you have rotted wood and it may be time for some major deck renovation.
Look at the deck-to-house connection as screws and bolts can loosen and rust over time. Tighten the fasteners that attach the deck to your home and look for any signs of moisture.
On a cosmetic level, you’ll need to pay attention to any nails that have popped up. If you can’t tap them back down, consider replacing them with galvanized ring-shanked nails which won’t pop up. Also be on the lookout for loose wood, which could result in major splinters!
If you need to pull up and replace any damaged board, remove the fasteners and lift the board straight up with a pry bar to avoid damaging or loosening any adjacent boards.
Image from the Handyman’s Daughter.
Clean It Up
You should be cleaning your deck annually regardless of age and wear. The good news is that decks that are maintained on a regular basis can be revived with a deck cleaner, like Olympic ready-to-use deck cleaner which simply attaches to a sprayer and removes dirt, stains, and mildew.
If it’s been awhile since you last cleaned your deck, you may need to invest in a pressure washer to tackle tough, scrub-resistant stains. Use a fan-type nozzle instead of a pinpoint nozzle to avoid digging into the wood’s surface.
Image from Chris Loves Julia.
After repairing and cleaning your deck, you need to apply a protective finish. This Old House recommends clear finishes and transparent stains for newer wood, but if your deck is on the older side, use a semi-transparent stain to give the old wood a clean, uniform color while also helping any replaced wood boards blend in.
Weigh the options of stain transparency:
- Clear finishes showcase new wood beautifully but the clarity also gives way to harmful UV rays. Clear finishes need to be reapplied on a more regular basis (every 6-24 months).
- Solid stains offer great UV protection and hide the wood’s grain under an opaque film. Solid stains typically boast a four-year lifespan, but beware! This stain can tend to peel or crack.
- Semi-transparent stains are the most popular deck finishes and usually the easiest to maintain. They offer sun-blocking pigments more than the clear coats but not enough to completely mask the wood grain. Semi-transparent stains penetrate the wood surface so there is no film and can be reapplied as needed, usually after three years.
Make sure you give your deck a few days to completely dry from the cleaning process (or rain) before applying a sealant or stain. Time your staining project for a day or two of no expected rain showers. Even better, wait until there is an overcast day; stain evaporation from the deck will be slower.
- Sweep the deck clean before application.
- Using a synthetic filament brush slightly wider than the deck’s boards, apply the stain full-strength starting from the top portions of the deck (top rail, balusters, and posts) then to the actual decking. Brush up drips and runs immediately!
- For an even color, stir strain frequently throughout application.
- Brush each deck board one at a time with long, even strokes working with the grain.
- When finished, let the deck dry for at least 48 hours before allowing foot traffic or placing furniture on it.
Tip: Keep in mind you might need extra stain for a deck that hasn’t been touched up for a long period of time… thirsty wood will absorb stain quickly!
In just a weekend’s time, your deck will be back to entertaining status!