Q: At one time you wrote an article on yearly deck maintenance that included instructions on cleaning a deck and a recipe for preserving it. Can you send me that recipe?

A: You bet we can. Each year around this time, we get a number of questions from readers who want to know how best to care for their outdoor wood, whether it be decking, fencing or siding. With the spring and summer months upon us, it’s time for a quick refresher course.

First, a word of caution: The wood you buy at the lumber store, whether it be redwood, cedar, fir or an exotic, such as iron wood or zebra wood, will not retain the color and texture you see right after it’s installed. Water and sunlight — specifically ultraviolet light — over time will change both the color and texture of wood over time. Water-repellant preservatives and sealers can help maintain a consistent color, but they will not give the same color or tone you see in the lumber rack.

For longevity as well as aesthetics, we prefer to apply a preservative to outdoor wood. A clear preservative will most often darken and enrich the natural color of the wood. An example is redwood, which is a light red, almost pinkish color in its freshly milled state but turns to a deep red-rose when treated with most preservatives.

Choose a product with UV protection. Preservatives with stain will color the wood. We have used and been satisfied with two brands in particular. They are Preserva-Wood, (www.preservawood.com) and Duckback (www.superdeck.com).

Decks require either annual or semi-annual maintenance, depending on exposure to weather and use. A maintenance program consists of cleaning the deck, removing any mildew that might have accumulated and applying a new coat of preservative.

The best way to clean a deck is with a pressure washer, although for smaller decks a stiff-bristle brush and plenty of elbow grease will serve nearly as well.

Pressure washers are either gasoline or electric-powered and direct a pressured stream of water that makes short work of surface dirt, mold and mildew. Pressure washers are available at rental centers and can be purchased at home centers.

We recommend a machine that can produce a stream of water of at least 1,500 pounds per square inch. Be sure to keep the wand moving. If you don’t, it’s easy to blast softer wood away from the surface and leave a rippled effect on the deck. Deck cleaners formulated for use with pressure washers are available where the machines are rented or sold.

In shaded, moist areas, mildew buildup can be a problem. To solve this, wash with a weak bleach solution–1/4 cup of bleach to a gallon of water–to kill the fungus before pressure washing.

Once cleaning is completed, allow the deck to dry a day or so. Then apply two coats of UV protective water repellant sealer or stain.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Choose a warm day to do it and the load will be lightened. The reward, of course–a summer outdoors in pleasant surroundings and prolonging the life of your investment–is well worth the effort.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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