Updated: Sep 8, 2019
Wood decks can be beautiful but painstaking projects. In order to maintain the natural charm of your deck, it’s important to care for and treat the wood over time. Doing so can prevent unnecessary wear from occurring and ensure longevity. So, how does one care for and treat wood? For starters, cleaning and checking the wood regularly for signs of water absorption, mildew, and splitting can help you stay ahead of the curve.
To check your deck for these issues, conduct a water test. Simply pour a few drops of water on to your deck to determine whether water is penetrating the wood or standing on the surface. If it’s the latter, chances are your deck is still in good shape. However, if the wood absorbs the water, then it may be time to clean your deck in preparation of sealing and refinishing it.
1. Check for Disrepair
To start, remove any debris from between the panels of the deck. You can do this by running a screwdriver or putty knife over areas where sticks, pebbles, or grime have collected. From there, rinse off your deck with a garden hose before inspecting the wood for splintering and soft spots. Should you determine that certain boards are unsalvageable, replace them before proceeding.
2. Smooth and Refine
Once you’ve checked for disrepair and cleaned away debris, sand down any areas that have splintered or appear fuzzy with 80-grit paper–sweeping the deck thoroughly upon completion. This is also a good opportunity to countersink any nails or screws that are no longer flush with the rest of the deck.
3. Environmental Considerations
Now that the deck is clean, be sure to wet and cover nearby bushes and shrubs with clear plastic sheets to protect them from chemicals. Moreover, consider both weather and temperature prior to applying a deck cleaner.
Note that a two-day forecast of cloudy skies and temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees is optimal. If sunshine or rain are in the forecast, then it’s best to wait. Otherwise, you risk unwanted spotting and running–causing you to repeat the process of applying the deck cleaner.
4. Apply Cleaner
There are many brands of deck cleaners on the market. Be sure to do your due diligence to determine the best one for your needs. Regardless of which brand you use, double-check the label, as instructions can vary from brand to brand.
To apply the cleaner, you can use a paint roller or a hard-bristled push broom. If time abides, use the push broom. The hard bristles will help penetrate the grain of the wood, ensuring maximum absorption. A smaller brush can be used on posts, though, you'll want to be sure to work the brush from bottom to top to avoid splatter.
Upon completing application, allow up to 10 minutes for the cleaner to dry and then power wash your deck; taking care not to target specific areas for more than a few seconds at a time. Now that your deck has been thoroughly cleaned, you’re ready to move on to sealing.