Do It Yourself: Renew Your Deck With Maintenance And Refinishing

Do it yourself tips and instructions provided to clean, maintain and renew a wood deck including sealing and staining techniques

Most wood decks are built of durable woods such as redwood, cedar or pressure-treated pine but continual exposure to the weather and heavy usage can cause your deck to look unattractive. Ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) can cause the surface of the wood to discolor and look gray. Mildew problems on the surface of your deck cause the wood to darken and turn black. Yearly maintenance of a wood deck can lengthen the life of your deck and beautify the wood to its natural glory.

Proper care of a wood deck should begin with a good cleaning. Remove all furniture and potted plants. If plants are in permanent containers, you may want to cover them with some plastic sheeting to protect against exposure to any cleaning products. Check the deck carefully for any boards that have rotted and replace if necessary. Use a water hose with a spray nozzle attachment and clean the surface dirt from the wood. Give extra attention to the cracks and crevices of the wood planking that can retain mold and mildew. Scrub the deck with a mixture of laundry detergent and water. Scrub in small areas and rinse with clear water as you work.

Mildew stains can be removed with a mixture of 1 part chlorine bleach to 4 parts water. Test in an inconspicuous part of the deck if you are cleaning redwood as some products may darken the wood. If the bleach mixture dulls the surface of the wood, an acid-based product such as oxalic acid deck cleaner may provide the solution. In a non-metallic container mix a solution of four ounces crystal oxalic acid to one quart water. Apply the solution to one board at a time and scrub with a scrub brush. Allow the solution to dry and then rinse the deck with clean water. Use caution when applying the oxalic acid solution by wearing rubber gloves and appropriate eye protection to guard against accidents. Read all caution warnings on the back of the label before using.

A wood deck that has an existing stain finish can be cleaned using a commercial deck scrub cleaning product available at your local hardware stores. This specialty cleaner will remove the finish and clean the wood thoroughly. Carefully follow the label directions.

A sealer or stain should be applied to your wood deck to provide future protection from weather and sun damage. The sealer should offer UV protection, be resist mildew, and provide a water repellent, not just a water resistant finish. Look for a sealer that is formulated using synthetic oils and resins that will not just provide a surface film but will actually soak into the wood. Sealers and stains are available in both water-based and oil-based products. A deck can be sealed the same day if it is cleaned with a water-based sealer; however, an oil-based finish requires less upkeep and re-coating than a water-based finish. The sealer and stain can be applied with a paint brush, roller or spray rig but spraying will give a smoother finish than brushing or rolling.

Tips: Avoid applying deck sealer in direct sunlight as it will dry too quickly and not absorb into the wood properly. Always stir the stain or sealer instead of shaking the can to avoid bubbles forming in the finish. Two thin coats of sealer or stain are better than one thick coat. Allow proper drying times between coats to avoid a tacky finish. Avoid using high pressured water to clean a cedar deck as it can damage the surface of the wood which will require sanding to correct.

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