Over the years, the elements as well as children and pets can take a toll on your backyard deck. The damage and the appearance can get bad enough for you to consider ripping the whole thing up and starting over.
But before taking that drastic step, you can speak with us and we can help you assess your situation. There are times when we’re asked to replace a deck less than 5 years old that were pressure treated and sealed properly. The good news is that most decks can be rejuvenated for a lot less than the cost of replacement.
Following are some techniques you can use to give an old deck a new lease on life, or to help maintain the look of a new one. A project like this can be done in two days, but it’s best to spread the work over two weekends to ensure the wood is completely dry before you apply stain.
Inspecting Your Deck
Begin by inspecting the entire deck. Pay special attention to any part of the deck that is in direct contact with the ground, such as the posts, stair stringers or joists that are at ground level. Using a simple screwdriver, test these areas by gently poking the tip of the screwdriver into the wood. If it sinks in, that means you may have some rot going on, and it could be time to replace that entire piece of the deck.
Also, inspect the deck-to-house connection, screws and bolts can loosen and rust without the proper use of spacers and flashing, moisture can cause your band joist to rot.
Tighten the fasteners that attach the deck to the house, look for any missing, bent or rusted flashing and carefully inspect inside and out for any telltale black stains that suggest moisture is working its way into your home.
Next, look for any cosmetic damage. For example, tap down any popped nails or consider replacing them with screws. There are special screws that can help hold them in place if your deck was built with nails, and you want to keep it looking uniform.
Cleaning The Deck
Every deck should have an annual cleaning. Assuming they have been maintained regularly, most decks can be revived with just a deck cleaner. Some products, like Thompson’s Deck Wash ($10, 1 gal. covers 250 sq. ft.), you mix in a bucket and apply to the deck; others, like GE’s Weathermate ($30, 1 gal. covers 500 sq. ft.), come in containers with integral applicators that you hook up to a garden hose. Once on the deck, most still require a stiff-bristle brush and a lot of elbow grease to work the mixture into the wood.
Always wear eye protection and gloves when working with concentrated chemicals. You’ll also want to protect nearby plants. The level of plant protection depends on the type and concentration of the chemicals you choose. For weak solutions and “plant-friendly” cleaners, you may need to only mist the plants before and after using cleaning. Powerful deck restorers can burn leaves on contact; in that case you should cover nearby plants with plastic sheeting.
For tackling tough stains, use a pressure washer (about $70 a day). We recommend using a fan-type nozzle instead of a pinpoint nozzle that can dig into the wood.
Staining Your Deck
Once all of the repairs have been made and the deck is clean, it’s time to apply a protective finish. Clear finishes and transparent stains are fine for new wood, but for older decks, we recommend using a semitransparent stain.
The grain will still shows through, but the pigment gives the old wood a clean, uniform color and helps the new wood blend in. The pigment also provides extra protection from the damaging effects of the sun and will last longer than clear finishes. Unlike paint, stain is absorbed by the wood and does not form a film on its surface, so it will not peel or chip.
Spraying is fast, and puts more stain on the wood than rolling or brushing. Most painters and homeowners are better off spraying on a generous coat of stain and then following up with a roller or brush to spread out puddles and work the finish into the wood. Rollers can push the stain off the wood and down the cracks, so using a brush can help keep this from happening.
Older wood can absorb more stain than newer wood, so expect to purchase more than you need.
Regular deck maintenance done once a month, which includes but isn’t limited to sweeping, scrubbing and hosing can improve the decks longevity.
If you’re not sure about your decks condition and need an opinion, give us a call and we can help you.