8 Essential Deck Maintenance Do’s and Don’ts

09 October 2017

Decks, by their outdoor nature, are exposed to the elements. Rain, wind, sun, snow, dirt, and even ash (if you live in an area prone to forest fires) will all wear away at your deck. So what can you do to protect it? Better yet, what should you do, and what should you avoid doing? Here are a few pro-tips and tricks for keeping your deck strong and good as new for years to come.

Essential Do’s

1. Rearrange furniture

This simple move makes more of a difference than you might assume. Moisture gets trapped between the bottom of your furniture or patio rug and the surface of your deck, and mildew loves these damp, dark, and adjacent areas. Don’t give mildew the chance to settle in! Mix up your furniture placement regularly to allow moisture- and mildew-prone areas to dry out before the damage is done.

2. Remove mildew and refinish

To clean mildew off a wooden deck, it’s best to wait for a dry and sunny day. You can often use warm water to gently scrub the deck. If that doesn’t do the job, add a touch of vinegar (or gentle soap like Dawn for composite decks). If it’s been awhile since your deck was last refinished, hire a professional to refinish the deck surface and recharge its mildew defense powers while giving it a fresh look.

3. Use deck cleaner

If your deck is beginning to show its age, deck cleaner with mild bleach can brighten up a bleach-friendly surface. This is ideal for removing leftover dirt that can’t be reached by sweeping alone.

4. Cover shrubbery

If you are cleaning with any type of chemical, it doesn’t take much to discolor and destroy the flowers just off your deck steps. Even if the chemicals don’t come into direct contact with the plants themselves, they can be soaked up through the roots if the ground is not covered, ultimately killing your garden.

Essential Don’ts

1. Don’t use pure bleach

Deck cleaner that contains bleach as an ingredient is one thing, but using pure chlorine bleach solution to clean your deck won’t do you any real good.

Mold and mildew are both vegetative growths with roots. You don’t kill the weed by cutting off the leaves — you dig out the roots. Bleach is not able to soak into the wood to get to where the roots are. You may enjoy a shiny surface for a few days after bleaching a deck, but the mold and mildew will come right back up top, as they were never truly removed from the source.

2. Don’t skip the gaps

Just because the gaps in your deck aren’t directly exposed to foot traffic doesn’t mean you should neglect them. Allowing debris like leaves and dirt to accumulate in the gaps between the wood planks will eventually cause rot and discoloration in the deck itself.

3. Don’t pressure wash your deck

Pressure washing is a great way to get your home’s exterior looking good as new — but this cleaning method shouldn’t be used directly on a deck. Why?

  • It damages the wood
  • It removes the natural oils from the wood
  • It leaves splinters in the wood that can open up and be further damaged by sun and water

This isn’t such a big problem with composite decks, but if not done properly, it can still do more long term harm than good.

4. Don’t neglect stress points

They’re harder to reach, sure, but they need attention and cleaning even more than the rest of the deck. These are the points that hold the deck together. For the same reason it makes no sense to wash a car every few weeks but never get the oil changed, don’t neglect the structural points on your deck that hold everything together.

Make sure to keep an eye on the stress points in your deck, including the stairs, railing, and the framing holding it all together. If these start to warp, crack, or split, your deck may not be safe to enjoy without substantial repairs.