A deck is a great space for entertaining friends or family or enjoying a calm Sunday afternoon with a beverage in hand. However you use your deck, properly caring for it is crucial to its longevity. If you’re a deck owner, you might be asking yourself, “how do I maintain my deck? Do I need a handyman?” The answer depends on the state of your deck, but the short answer is – no, not necessarily. There are plenty of ways to increase the longevity of your deck, from cleaning it to sealing it with butyl tape.
Let’s cover a few ways to extend the life of your deck so you can enjoy it for years to come.
Clean Your Deck Regularly
The least technical way to extend the life of your deck is to keep it clean. Thankfully, it’s easy to do and if you create a cleaning schedule, it won’t take up a lot of time. To properly clean your deck, all you’ll need is
- A mild detergent
- A bucket
- A mop
Begin cleaning your deck by removing any outdoor furniture or plants that may be on it. Once your deck is clear, give it a quick sweep to remove debris from surrounding trees or plants. Once the deck is clear, dip your mop and begin working. It is best to work from the outside edge of the deck towards the house. Doing so will ensure you don’t dirty an area you have already cleaned. After scrubbing once, allow the moisture from the first wash to evaporate before going in for a second pass to remove more stubborn stains. Soaking your deck in too much water too fast can waterlog it and decrease its longevity, so take your time.
Regularly cleaning your deck will prevent the accumulation of dirt, mildew, algae, and other grime or debris that can cause your deck to deteriorate. Regular upkeep makes the deck cleaning process easier, but things happen, and sometimes the deck cleaning chore falls to the wayside. No big deal! If you need extra cleaning power to remove stubborn stains, consider adding a wood cleaner to your detergent solution.
Seal Your Deck from Moisture
Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a temperate climate with balmy winters, chances are your deck will experience the most wear and tear during winter. For those of you who live in places with harsh winters, the best way to increase the life of your deck is to seal it. Decks, especially those made of wood, must be sealed against moisture to prevent rot and decay. You can seal your deck a few different ways, requiring different levels of skill and time.
Options for Sealing Your Deck
- Butyl tape
- Applying a deck sealant
Not sure what the best option is for you? Let’s cover a bit of detail about each one.
Butyl tape is a moisture-resistant, flexible tape that can be used to line the joists of your deck to seal out moisture that causes wood rot. Installation of butyl tape is simple – remove the adhesive backing and apply it along the joists of your deck. Applying adhesive to the joists of your deck requires the removal of the deck’s top layer. Consider having a professional apply or reapply butyl tape to your deck’s joists unless you are comfortable with power tools and carpentry. Butyl tape can also be wrapped around the underside of screw heads to create a water-resistant barrier between the deck and screw. This building technique is a great way to increase the longevity of individual boards.
Apply a Deck Sealant
Taking apart your deck can be an intimidating and time-consuming task, and sometimes hiring a professional is too expensive. If you don’t want to take on that kind of project, consider applying a sealant to your deck. Applying a deck sealant is an economical, simple, power-tool-free, way to lock out moisture. A deck sealant is a hydrophobic solution that, when properly applied, can prevent moisture from seeping into your deck. Applying deck sealant is similar to cleaning your deck. To apply deck sealant, you will need a container to mix the sealant in and an application tool (paint rollers or spray guns work well). When applying deck sealant, work from the edges of the deck to the center in a uniform fashion. Let each coat dry completely before attempting a second pass. There are many deck sealants on the market, but any deck sealants with water and UV-resistant qualities will suffice. Be sure to consult the instructions on the back of your sealant for the best results.
Tarps are the least labor-intensive way to protect your deck from moisture and decay. However, they are also the least effective form of deck protection. If you’re in a pinch, throwing a tarp over your deck is a better solution than nothing at all, especially during the winter. Any plastic-based tarp will suffice, so long as it is rip-resistant and can easily be secured using rope or other fasteners. Depending on the size of your deck, you may need several tarps to completely cover all exposed surfaces. Be sure to measure your deck before you purchase a tarp to ensure you get the right size.
Replace Your Deck’s Boards
Depending on the age of your deck, it may be time to replace sections of it. Eventually, moisture and rot will affect even the best cared-for decks. When parts of your deck start to age, it is time to replace them. Replacing worn or rotten boards regularly keeps your deck safe for friends and family and reduces the likelihood of costly overhauls in the future. Often, boards in need of replacement will be easy to locate. Weak boards will creak under small loads or have visible defects such as chips or mold. If you are unsure of whether or not your deck is safe, please seek professional help. Whether you choose to replace the boards of your deck yourself or hire a professional to do so, be sure to add or replace butyl tape on the newly exposed joist to further increase the life of your deck.
Keeping Your Deck in Top Condition
Regular maintenance of your deck will ensure that it lasts for many years to come. For the best results, use a combination of the techniques to get the most out of your deck, and don’t be afraid to hire a professional when necessary.