A deck can be an extension of your living space during the warmer months, becoming a second living room for get-togethers or a quiet retreat to soak in a summer breeze. For all their usefulness, decks can be a pain to maintain and can become an eyesore as they age. Keeping your deck looking sharp and ready for use isn’t as hard as it might seem. Here are some ways to save money by doing your own deck maintenance.
The first thing to do before even thinking about refinishing is to check for any damage. Make sure that all the posts that hold the deck up are in good shape and don’t have any rotting or splintering. Check to make sure that railings are in good condition and feel solid. All the posts holding the deck up should be firmly attached and not leaning or bowing.
If you find any structural issues, you should call in a pro to do repairs, but there are a few things you can do yourself. For instance, this is also a good time to check for brush and debris because a buildup of dry material under a wooden deck can pose a fire hazard in summer months.
Once you’ve given your deck a good visual inspection, the next step is to check for damage and make repairs to any of the floorboards of the deck and replace any cracked boards with new material. You can accomplish this by unscrewing the damaged area from beam to beam and cutting away the damaged area of the board from halfway across the beam to halfway across the next beam. Screw the existing boards into the beam at each end and then cut a new board to fit the gap and screw it in. If you’re working on a smaller deck, it might be simpler to just replace the whole board rather than cutting out the damaged area.
After your floorboards are solid and all repairs have been made, you need to clean the surface and prepare it for refinishing. A good power washer is the best way to accomplish this. You can usually rent a pressure washer from a local hardware store for between $40 and $85 a day, depending on the size of your project. For a small deck, an electric power washer is a good choice, but a gas powered washer might be better for larger jobs. Using a power washer is pretty simple—it’s mostly point and shoot—but take care not to turn the pressure up too high because it can actually damage the wood. Using a fan attachment rather than a narrow attachment will help to spread out the pressure to avoid damage.
To get rid of mold, mildew, and stains, a mixture of bleach and detergent is usually your best bet. You can use a premixed solution or you can make your own by mixing one quart of household bleach, three quarts of warm water, and one-third cup of ammonia-free powdered laundry detergent or ammonia-free dish soap. The important thing here is not to mix bleach and ammonia together as they combine to make a toxic gas.
Once your surface is cleaned, you may decide to also refinish your deck. Deck finishes can be a stain, a paint, or a clear coat protector. Generally, a water-based product is better for ease of use and clean-up.
To apply the finish, a sprayer is the best bet, but use a drop cloth or plastic to protect your house and yard from overspray. To get an even coat, start by spraying a light layer over the whole deck and then go back with a roller or a brush to spread out puddles and even it all out. It’s better to do two coats than to get a blotchy, uneven finish. You might also want to use the brush to paint the edges of the floorboards and other areas that will be more difficult to spray. Once your finish is dry, you’re ready to enjoy your refurbished deck.