6 tips for maintaining a deck to help make it last

July 28, 2015

Decks are valuable outdoor living spaces, not only for the day-to-day enjoyment you get out of them but for the monetary value they add when selling your home. Here are six tips to help keep your deck in top shape.

6 tips for maintaining a deck to help make it last

1. Sweep the deck regularly

Just as with porches, you need to sweep decks regularly to get rid of leaves, twigs and other debris that can stain wood surfaces and trap moisture, resulting in mildew and rot.

  • Use a heavy-duty broom to sweep your deck clean, making sure the bristles get into the gaps between floorboards to clear out any trapped leaves and needles.
  • If even after a good once-over with a heavy-duty broom you still see gunk lodged between floorboards, use a putty knife to clean out the gaps.

2. Keep it clear of water

Standing water is an invitation for rot to occur, so make sure any roof runoff is directed away from your wooden deck.

  • Clean, strategically-placed gutters are the best means of keeping rainwater from forming puddles on a deck.
  • Another option is to install rain diverters on the roof to direct water runoff away from the deck.

3. Check for any loose nails

As the wood in a new deck dries, connections that were tightly bolted or nailed together can loosen and become unsafe.

  • Periodically, check below the deck and tighten every nut and bolt you see. Hammer in any nails that are about to pop.
  • While you're at it, look for discolouration, mould, or other signs of rotting wood, both below the deck and on its surface.
  • Poke a screwdriver into wood surfaces that look suspect. If the tip penetrates the wood easily and tears its fibres apart, replace that piece. It's beginning to rot, which will only worsen with time.

4. Consider using pressure-treated lumber

Pressure-treated wood is basically plywood or lumber that has been treated with potentially toxic chemicals that help protect it from termites and decay-causing fungi.

When handling pressure-treated lumber:

  • Wear eye protection and a CSA accredited dust mask. (When working with tools, you should be wearing eye protection regardless of the type of wood being used.)
  • Wash up well before eating, and launder your work clothes separately.
  • Don't use pressure-treated wood for any structural elements that could come into contact with drinking water or food.

5. Watch your air circulation

Good air circulation underneath a deck is essential to preventing the moisture buildup that can cause rot and attract termites.

  • Clean beneath your deck periodically to keep leaves, needles, and other moisture-trapping debris from building up.
  • If you want to conceal the area below a deck, use a lattice enclosure, or skirt, which hides untended ground or stored items while allowing air to flow freely. Make sure the skirt sits at least 2.5 centimetres (one inch) above the ground so that its bottom edge doesn't get moist.

6. Care properly for composite surfaces

Composite deck materials may have maintenance requirements that differ from those listed above for wooden decks. For example:

  • It is not advisable to pressure wash composite surfaces. What's more, certain cleaning supplies may fade the colour of the composite material itself.
  • Although composite materials are often resilient to weathering and rot, they aren't indestructible if given improper care.

Ask your contractor or home improvement centre for advice about how to best care for your composite-material deck, if you have one.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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