by Rick Goldstein, a registered architect and co-owner of MOSAIC Group [Architects and Remodelers], an Atlanta-based design/build company with Indoor and Outdoor Living Divisions.
It’s that time of year when we all want to be outside enjoying the beautiful weather. Periodically maintaining a deck is important for its longevity and for the safety of those using it. Follow these steps to make sure your deck is adequately protected:
Inspect the Deck
- Are there any loose boards or nails popping up on the surface that could be a tripping hazard?
- Do you see any rotten deck boards?
- Is the railing sturdy?
- Are the support posts in good condition?
- Is the structure connected to the house appropriately?
- Are the stairs sturdy?
- Address any maintenance items prior to staining or sealing your deck.
Assess the Condition of the Decking
- Is the decking in good condition?
- Has it been maintained regularly?
- Is it cracked, weathered or splintered?
Clean the Deck
Cleaning properly is critical to applying new stain. This is the step where most people make the mistake of damaging the wood. Using a pressure washer is appropriate only for light cleaning…and only if you use it carefully. Using the wrong tip or too high pressure will damage soft wood and not allow the stain to adequately penetrate it.
A better method is to use a wood cleaner specifically made for deck cleaning, a stiff bristle broom and a little elbow grease. Once clean, the deck is rinsed and ready for stain. Wait at least 24 hours for the decking to dry. The drier the wood, the deeper the stain will penetrate, providing for a longer lasting finish.
Condition the Wood
If the wood is excessively dry and splintery, apply a wood conditioner prior to applying the stain. This helps distribute the stain color more evenly.
Apply the Stain/Sealer
There are many reputable manufacturers of quality deck stains. Research the best products available in your area. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly. Don’t apply it if it’s too cold or too hot outside. Make sure the wood is sufficiently dry after the last rain.
The best way to apply the finish is with a small roller and a brush. The roller applies the stain quickly while the brush places the stain into the nooks and crannies that the roller can’t reach. Depending on your deck’s exposure to the sun, most deck stains will last approximately 2-5 years between reapplications.