There's nothing like enjoying a meal on your deck, entertaining friends and family at a backyard barbecue or simply relaxing outside in your favorite chair. But before you fire up the grill, you need to make sure your deck has endured the elements and is ready for the spring season.
"The abuse a deck surface takes from the weather, foot traffic, barbeques, and food and drink spills can create both surface and structural problems. Moisture also can be a hazard when a deck is located around a pool area, or if it is continually sprayed with water from a sprinkler," says Sean Morris, product manager for Cabot Woodcare.
"Homeowners who do not properly clean and seal their decks, will find them turning gray and dingy, while the wood surfaces may begin to crack, split and warp," he adds.
There are several steps you can take to prepare your deck for the season:
* For safety's sake, make sure there are no nails sticking up from the deck or out from any posts. Over the winter, moisture buildup can cause expansion and contraction of wood which can loosen nails.
* A clean deck is a durable deck, so clean it thoroughly every one to two years and re-stain every two to four years. A deck and outdoor furniture can be cleaned, stained, and rid of mold, wood rot, mildew stains and algae, in two weeks or less. To complete the job quickly, be prepared with the right tools: a power sprayer or garden hose, scrub brush, drop cloths and a large staining/paint brush.
* Before staining or sealing your deck, make sure the surface has been prepped. Not only does the deck need to be free of debris, the deck needs to be cleaned properly. If the deck is dirty, scrub it with a proper cleanser, then rinse it with clean water and allow it to dry for two to three days before staining.
* Choose the right stain or sealant. Water-based finishes dry quickly, so oil-based stains should be used if you are finishing your deck in the heat. Oil-based stains used on decks should penetrate deep into wood and contain a tough alkyd resin for scuff resistance. Also available are stains containing 100 percent acrylic resin which provide a tough, scuff- and water-repellent finish, yet are breathable.
* Decks and porches can give way if they are old or improperly built. Scrutinize them for rotting or split wood; wobbly handrails; loose, rusting or missing hardware; warped floorboards; and weakening supports, girders or joists.
* Beware of welcome mats on decks. They can collect moisture and dry out too slowly, which can lead to water damage and/or wood rot. After precipitation, be sure to dry out the mat and allow the deck to dry.
* Think about where you place your grill. Placing a hard rubber door mat underneath it will keep your deck free of stains. If grease drips onto your deck, use a household cleaner to wipe it clean.
"It's easy to forget that decks need maintenance and care just as your lawn or roof does," says Morris. "By performing routine checks and taking care of the warning signs, homeowners can extend the life of their decks so they can be enjoyed for years to come."