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Maintaining Your Deck will Protect Your Investment

Rosario Ungaro - Friday, September 25, 2015

Today’s backyard decks can range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. They can be made from exotic woods like Ipe, Mahogany or Teak or more comon woods like Cedar, Redwood, pressure-treated or not wood at all like composites or PVC. Regardless of what your deck is made from, it will need to be maintained.

Deck Maintenance Before and AfterHaving a regular maintenance program for your deck will:

  • protect your investment in your deck
  • optimize your ROI
  • make sure your deck always looks its best
  • make sure your deck stays safe
  • protect/maintain your deck against: mold and mildew; rotting; split boards; popping out nails; rotting; fading, discolouring, and staining from the tannins from leaves, etc.
  • protect you against potential liability claims

And, maintaining your deck can be cheaper in the long run—especially if you extend the life of your deck by twenty per cent.

Think about deck maintenance before you build

Ideally, thinking about deck maintenance should start before construction begins because it can influence the choices you make regarding deck materials. Some decks are more expensive to maintain and will take more work. Composite decks are touted to be both lower in maintenance and to cost less to maintain.

Being honest with yourself at this stage makes a lot of sense. Are you going to have the time and inclination to do the work yourself? Will you hire someone? One customer came to us because they did not maintain their deck for several years because they didn’t know a professional they could hire and just didn’t get around to doing the research necessary to find one. Knowing up front may help you to decide on the best deck for you—composite or wood, exotic (e.g., Ipe) or traditional (e.g., cedar). Different types of decks have different lifespans. Their cost to maintain can also vary significantly.

Inspecting your deck

The material of the deck notwithstanding, inspecting the construction, natural wear and tear, and expected maintenance issues should also be done. What state is your deck currently in? Not maintained? Has your deck been poorly maintained or not maintained correctly? What needs to be inspected? For a complete overview of what a professional might inspect for see http://nadra.org/Deck_Evaluation_Form.pdf. Not trying to be all inclusive in any way, here are some things that will needed to be checked: hardware: is there rust evident? Have nails popped?; deck boards, railings and support beams and ledger: check for decay, insect damage, splitting, rotting or mildew, popped up nails, raised area, etc.

Depending on the condition of your deck, the work that your deck requires may vary considerably and you may need or want to bring in a professional. The condition of your deck will indicate what's needed ranging from major repairs, if it has been neglected or damaged, to needing to be stripped and sanded, re-stained and resealed, or just needing a good cleaning and maintenance coat. I should mention that wood and composite decks are maintained differently and I will make some differentiations between the two below.

Cutek Extreme Wood Protection OilBasic steps for maintaining a wood deck

  1. Cleaning, sweeping, debris removal
  2. Basic washing without chemicals—basically getting the deck ready for inspection
  3. Inspection
  4. Repairing
  5. Chemical washing
  6. Sanding if required
  7. Restaining or sealing with a coloured penetrating oil e.g., Cutek

Maintaining a composite deck

For composite deck maintenance we thought that there would be nothing better than going straight to the horse's mouth and we have excerpted this entire section from a Trex Publication: "TREX® DECKING AND RAILINGGENERAL CARE AND CLEANING GUIDE (TRADITIONAL COMPOSITE AND PVC)". 

Trex has different instructions depending on the Trex products that you may have. It goes without sayng therefore that you should check the instructions for your specific products—whether Trex or another manufacturer. The purpose here is to give you a general guideline and not to provide you with specific maintenance instructions.

  • Dirt and debris: to remove dirt and debris soap and water is all that is needed. 
Most colored chalks are permanent.
  • Water spots, leaf staining and wood tannins: Tannin leaching occurs naturally in Trex and all wood-based products. Allow for at least 12 weeks of normal weathering. This process may be hastened through the use of a product containing oxalic or phosphoric acid…
  • Ice and snow: Calcium chloride or rock salt, available in many home centers, will melt ice on Trex decking. Rinse off when first practical. Use caution when removing snow or ice with a snow shovel, and NEVER use a metal snow shovel on a Trex deck. A shovel may scratch the deck, which is not covered under warranty.
  • Scuffs and abrasions: Scuffs and abrasions can fade or disappear naturally after 12 – 16 weeks of weathering. This can be accelerated with a product containing oxalic…
  • Rust stains, ground-in dirt and grime and pigment staining: Use a cleaning product containing oxalic or phosphoric acid… to lighten or remove rust or dirt. Product may need to sit on the stain for 10 – 15 minutes before rinsing…
  • Oil, grease and food: Rinse the stain with hot water as soon as possible. Use [a product like] Pour-N-Restore®*** (pour-n-restore.com) as directed for any remaining stain. (Test in small area first as Pour-N-Restore may remove some of the colorant from the decking surface.)
  • Mold and mildew: Semi-annual (spring and fall) cleaning of your deck is important to prevent buildup of pollen and
other debris that can support the growth of mold…[Many composites] can be effectively cleaned by using a hose and warm, soapy water with a soft bristle brush.
  • Using a pressure washer: Trex does not recommend the use of a pressure washer with standard composite products. Use of a pressure washer can damage the decking surface and will void the warranty with respect to any condition caused by the pressure washing.
  • Sanding: Trex does not recommend sanding. Sanding will change the appearance of the surface of Trex material and will void the warranty with respect to any condition caused by the sanding.

A couple of cautionary notes.

Beware the pressure washer: It’s Saturday morning and you’re off to your local Canadian Tire Store to buy that pressure washer you've always wanted. Today's the day you’ll clean and wash your deck. Be careful. Pressure washers can damage your deck if not used correctly. Read all instructions carefully as well as manufacturers instructions. If you have a composite deck note that some manufacturers, like Trex, do not recommend using pressure washers and it may void your warranty.

Danger: Some of the products used for cleaning decks can be hazardous, may not be eco-friendly, may cause burns and may damage plants. Read all safety instructions carefully. Pay attention to the type of weather in which the product will perform at its best and make sure you have a couple of days of dry weather ahead

That's all for now. Until next time, we'll keep Building It Right.


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A word from Rosario…

Our Blog is about sharing some of what we have learned along the way. (Many contractors even call us for ideas or advice.) We hope it is informative and shows our commitment to continuous learning—something we do so we can bring the very latest and best to our customers. 

You've probably heard the phrase: 

"Some people have twenty-five years of experience. Others have one year of experience, twenty-five times over." 

If a contractor doesn't stay up-to-date on the latest building codes, trends, styles, tools, materials, and products, they'll soon find themselves in the latter category. We work hard to make sure that we are not. We regularly talk with our suppliers, go to industry trade shows, and share information and ideas with our peers to make sure that we stay on top of our game and can continue to bring you the very best in building craftsmanship and knowledge.

I welcome the opportunity to chat with you about your next building project.

Regards,

Rosario Ungaro
President
Benchmark Building Services Inc.

Rosario

Relax… we'll build it right!