There’s just something satisfying about lumber. Humans have been using it for shelters, homes, furniture, weapons, tools, fuel and paper throughout the history of civilization. Even though we have developed countless new materials for these purposes, our relationship with wood remains solid (pun intended). Perhaps it’s because wood connects us to the beauty of nature, helping to blend our increasingly “manufactured” lives with a more natural existence. Or maybe it’s just because wood simply looks great!
However, just like any other natural substance, great looking wood can turn into not-so-great looking wood rather quickly – especially with outdoor structures like decks. That gorgeous, shiny deck that was bursting with vibrant color and detail just last summer may now have a grey and dull look. The elements have a way of muting the true beauty of wood.
There is no need to worry though – wood is resilient. You can clean or refinish your wood deck to its original beauty without completely refurbishing or replacing it. Try one, two or all three of the following wood rehab strategies to prepare your deck for the long days of summer ahead!
A good washing may be all your deck needs to get ready for summer. But there’s only one way to find out. Start off by taking a close look at your deck. Are there any loose nails? Surface stains, like chewed gum? Excess debris? If so, secure the loose nails, scrub off the external stains, remove all loose debris and sweep down the deck with a push broom.
Pro Tip: Use a flathead screwdriver or a wall scraper to remove debris from in between your deck boards.
Next, give your deck a thorough hose-down. If you don’t have a power washer, consider renting one (they typically cost less than $100 per day). Power washers can tackle tough stains and remove sun-damaged wood fibers with ease. But make sure not to set the pressure too high as it could damage the wood or existing stain. Once your deck is dry, examine the way it looks. Good, but could be better? Then it’s time to……
If it’s been a while since your deck has had any real love and care, that’s OK. You can restore your deck without completely stripping and sanding it. Often, a chemical cleaning, stain and reseal extends your deck’s life by years. If your deck is visibly stained and dirty, you’ll want to apply a deck cleaning solution.
There are a number of deck cleaning solutions on the market – including bleaches, peroxides, and acids – that are effective for different types of dirt and stains. This report, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory, is a great primer on deck cleaning solutions.
Pro Tip: Mix your own deck cleaner with household bleach, water and dish detergent.
Prep your deck by clearing all debris and gather your protective gear (goggles, gloves and breathing masks should always be worn when working with strong chemicals). Mix your solution, if needed, according to manufacturer’s instructions. Empty your cleaning solution into a bucket, then pour the solution carefully across sections of your deck. Use a push broom or mop to quickly spread the solution evenly among the deck boards. Make sure your entire deck is covered in an equal amount of solution, then push the excess liquid off of the deck using your push broom.
Finally, wash the deck down with your power washer or hose (preferably power washer), then go inside, have a drink and let the sun dry the deck. Once it dries, you’ll be amazed how much better your deck looks. At this point, you may be satisfied that your deck looks great, and is ready for a weekend barbeque. But probably not. You’ve come this far, and you’re actually enjoying the process, so why stop?
Staining your deck is a sure-fire way to make it look brand new – and add years to its life. A quality stain – on the right type of wood and properly applied – will not only sit on the surface but will penetrate through the wood’s pores and into its fiber to provide enhanced protection from moisture.
Deck stains come in a variety of compositions, including wax, oil-based and eco-friendly options. They are available in multiple shades, ranging from sheer to solid colors. Choose a stain based on the type of deck wood and the age of the wood.
Pro Tip: Use a semi-transparent stain for older wood decks, which will help retain its original beauty and give it a fresh look.
The process of staining a deck – and the equipment involved – is a lot like painting a wall. Staining-specific brushes and pads, rollers and trays are your tools. Brush your stain across boards individually, spreading the stain evenly. Don’t let any part of the stain dry before applying an even coat.
Pro Tip: Stain deck boards two at a time, lengthwise.
Once you’re finished, allow 24 hours for the deck to dry. Keep an eye on the kids and the dog – footprints on wet stain can become “fossilized” on your deck. Depending on the condition and type of wood, you may want to apply a second coat. Should this be the case, wait until your first coat is fully dry, then repeat the process.
Human civilization’s relationship with wood, including your relationship with your deck, works like all relationships – with love, care, and a little elbow grease, it might just last a lifetime.
To learn more tips and tricks for restoring your deck, visit our Decking Materials section.