An outdoor deck can be a wonderful addition to any home and a great place to spend time, but it also needs maintenance now and then to keep it safe and usable. Maintaining your deck is not as complex as it sounds, but having an actual guide to follow is much easier than just guessing.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to make sure that your deck is well-maintained. Not all of these will apply to you right away, but they are worth remembering the next time you notice an issue with your outdoor spaces.
Inspecting your Deck
When you are checking your deck, you want to be sure that you are not missing anything obvious, especially if it could be a sign of damage.
- Check for rot. Rotting wood can be a huge problem, although you can remove smaller spots with some wood preservatives. Working out why the wood is rotting can also make a huge difference.
- Identify any cracks or pushed-out nails on the surface of your deck, and be sure to replace anything that could be a possible weakness or hazard.
- Shake railings, especially stair railings. They can sometimes become loose if even one nail falls out of them, and this can be a major safety hazard.
- Be sure to look at all of the posts and beams that are holding up other parts of your deck – if they have suffered any kind of damage, then they might be too weak to properly support furniture or multiple people at once.
Decks are not just about looking good, but about being safe to use. There are certain building codes and restrictions that you should aim to stick to, no matter how much extra work it might take to repair a deck that has violated one of these codes.
- Railings have to be a minimum of 36 inches in height, and the guardrails on top of them need to hold 200 pounds of concentrated weight.
- The deck itself needs to be able to support 40 pounds of load per square foot of space and should be made of wood that has been treated to resist decaying.
- All metal components should be corrosion-resistant, and metal flashing is needed to connect the deck to your home so that rainwater does not damage and separate the two.
- Stairs with one handrail need to be at least 31.5 inches wide, and stairs with two handrails need to be 27 inches wide. Any stairs above handrail height need to be at least 26 inches wide.
Loose nails are a major concern. You can either hammer the nail down as a temporary solution or remove it entirely. When inserting a new nail, place it near the hole rather than in the same hole – if the original nail popped out, then the same hole likely will not be a suitable place to hammer in a second one.
Dealing with Deck Wood Deterioration
A wooden deck can have multiple threats that might make it deteriorate faster than expected, and dealing with them should always be your first priority if you want to keep your deck in the best condition possible.
- A constant stream of UV rays can begin to lighten the pigment in your wood, as well as weaken it. While this only really alters the surface of the deck itself, strong sunlight can make your wood far more vulnerable. Sealant and stains help prevent this.
- Water can cause wood to expand and contract (when wet and dry, respectively), leading to split boards and loose nails. Sweeping your deck and making sure that you clear away puddles, leaves, and dirt on a regular basis will avoid these issues.
- On rare occasions, various insects may try to destroy or eat your wood, often by crawling out of nearby bushes and trees. Trimming these plants and installing bug lights can both work really well here.
If the wood has decayed and become rotten, then you need to remove the rotten sections. You can use a ‘surgery’ method to only replace the rotten parts, preventing them from spreading further or acting as a structural weakness.
You will need to make sure that the wood matches up and that you have fresh nails and cleats installed. Any decayed joists also need new flashing. You can cut out a section of a board while keeping the rest, but you will need to replace that section properly.
Cleaning and Staining
Cleaning your deck is important since it allows you to easily get rid of any hazards or long-term dangers to the deck’s health and stability. It also generally makes it look nicer, so it is worth cleaning your deck even if you are not currently using it. Stains and sealers can also help.
- You can use a pressure washer (on a low setting) to blast away dirt or other stuck debris. Make sure you test this on spare wood first, just in case – you do not want to accidentally damage your deck while trying to clean it with high-pressure water jets.
- Sealers are clear coatings that can stop water from penetrating your deck’s boards – it does not protect from sunlight and UV rays, but it can repel moisture very well.
- A stain offers both moisture and UV protection and also lasts a lot longer. However, it is harder to apply correctly and can cost a lot more to refresh, meaning that it might be a costly choice in the short term.