Get Your Deck Ready For Spring

Nothing dampens the joy of opening up your backyard in the spring more than noticing that your deck is in need of repair. The constant exposure to the elements makes decks vulnerable to damage. The added stress of winter weather increases this threat.

Fortunately, most deck repairs are easily fixed and can be resolved with simple tools in a few hours’ time. What’s important is knowing what to look for.

Keep reading for everything you need to know to repair a deck.

Inspect the Deck

There are three main steps involved in repairing a deck. The first one is an inspection to ensure its health.

Look for Rot
The highest risk areas for damage are along the ground and close to your home. Starting from the ground up, examine all the supports, joists and steps, using a screwdriver to test for rot. If the materials are still firm, move on, but make note of any boards that can be easily pierced by the screwdriver.

If you have any rotten boards or joists, use a hammer and chisel to chip away damaged portions. Small enough spaces can be reinforced with wood putty and sealer. However, if the rot is too great, the board will have to be replaced.

Check the Connection
Pay attention to where the deck attaches to the house. All screws and fasteners need to be kept tight to maintain the integrity of the deck. Ensure that spacers and flashing are intact to protect the band joist from moisture.

Secure the Boards

Nails can often pop out of place due to expansion and contraction caused by temperature changes. Keep your deck boards in place by either nailing down any raised nails or, better yet, replace them with either screws or ring-shanked nails. These two options will stay secure permanently.

Clean the Surface

Once you’ve repaired the structure of your deck, it’s time to wash it. Cleaning your deck isn’t just about restoring its appearance but also to remove mildew before it can cause damage.

A pressure washer is the easiest way to clean the deck, but a standard hose will work. Use a brush with steel bristles to thoroughly clean the surfaces along with a cleaning solution to remove the dirt and mildew.

There are many cleaning products to choose from, but they all include at least one of the following ingredients:

  • Sodium Hydroxide - also known as lye, this a powerful cleaner that will remove most stains and finishes. It will damage the wood if left on too long.
  • Sodium percarbonate - an all-purpose cleaner for removing dirt and mildew.
  • Sodium hypochlorite - works well at removing mildew but is less effective against dirt. It can damage the wood if allowed to sit for too long.
  • Oxalic acid - Not very effective against mildew but a powerful way to restore the woods’ original color.

Choose the right product for your needs and follow the instructions closely. Make sure to rinse your deck well when finished and give it plenty of time to dry.

Reseal the Surface

Adding a stain to your deck gives it a protective finish that helps repel moisture while improving the wood's appearance. Ideally, you should be resealing it every year to preserve the life of your deck and keep it looking great.

Stains can be applied with either a brush or roller, or with a sprayer. A sprayer is ideal as it’s a quicker way to apply the stain and is less likely to drip between the spaces between boards. However, brushes and rollers will work, too.

Start at an inside corner, protecting the wall of the house with plastic or cardboard. Spray or brush parallel to the boards, working your way out. Prepare to apply multiple coats if the wood is older, as it will absorb more of the stain.

Another consideration for older wood is to use a semi-transparent finish. Newer woods have enough of their original color that a transparent stain looks good, but older lumber will be washed out from sun exposure. A semi-transparent finish will give it a brighter, bolder appearance.

The more you enjoy your deck, the more maintenance it will require. Boards will get worn down and stains will dull under heavy traffic. Left unaddressed, this will reduce the life of your deck.

You can avoid premature aging by taking a little time every spring to inspect and repair your deck. Repairs are simple and go a long way to ensure the continued enjoyment of your deck.