Relatively easy and cost-effective to build, decking can be a fantastic additional landscape feature in any garden, big or small. But actually, many overlook just how important it is to look after a deck.
Decking is exposed to all sorts of weird and wonderful weather conditions and natural elements. From rain, hail, snow and freezing conditions to blazing hot sunshine and warm, balmy days – and you can also throw some moss, insects and fungi into the mix.
Throughout the seasons, decking timber has rather a lot to contend with. So, it’s really important to give your deck a little TLC from time to time. Maintenance is key if you want a structurally sound and superb looking deck. But what actually goes into the maintenance of a deck and where do you start?
It might sound fairly obvious, but a little sweeping from every now and then can go a really long way in maintaining the condition and quality of decking timber, particularly if your decked area is positioned under a large tree or bush.
Fallen leaves and debris not only make the deck look cluttered and dirty but over time can stain or decay into the timber and make the decking slippery when wet. Autumn is the prime time for this to happen, so be sure to spare a few minutes every couple of weeks to get out into your garden and give your deck a quick once over.
Sweeping also gives you a chance to clear the deck whilst inspecting for any signs of broken boards, loose screws or rot. As you move across the deck, you can give the boards a little wiggle, with your foot or by hand, to check that the decking is structurally sound.
If you spot any loose or rusted screws, simply take them out and replace them with new wood screws. Any holes can be filled with wood filler, maintaining a smooth and perfected finish. Don’t forget to sweep between railings too, and check that they are still sturdy and in place.
Decking is susceptible to wear and tear and it’s not uncommon to have to repair or replace parts of your deck after a few years. Decking boards are often the main culprits for this. You may spot an uneven board, or even splits or cracks.
These issues need to be addressed as soon as you spot them. The last thing you want is for someone to fall through the deck or pick up a splinter. Thankfully decking board replacement is a quick, easy and affordable fix.
All you need to do is find a decking board match. Then, use a claw hammer to remove the old board. Cut your new board to size, fit the replacement board and screw it into place. When you cut the decking board to size, remember to treat the newly exposed wood ends with a cut end preserver.
The new replacement board is likely to stick out like a sore thumb, particularly if the other boards have been down for some time, or have been previously treated. You’ve got two options to rectify this.
The first option is to jet wash, sand down and treat your entire deck. The other option, ideal if you’ve recently maintained the rest of your deck, is to stain or treat the new replacement decking piece. It’s up to you.
But if you’re looking at your deck and feel that it’s in a complete state of disrepair, it may be time to rip it down and start again, creating a brand-new deck.
Annually, it’s well worth getting the jet wash out to give your deck a deep clean. You’d be amazed how much dirt a deck can pick up over the course of a year. Once you start jet washing, you’ll spot the noticeable difference between one half of a deck that has been jet washed, and the half that hasn’t. It might take an afternoon of your time, but let’s be honest, on a warm, sunny day this is a pretty satisfying job.
Whilst a hose and bristle brush will mimic the job of a jet wash, it’s far more labour intensive and it’s unlikely that you’ll achieve as good of a job. If you haven’t got a jet wash and don’t want to rush out and buy one, it’s often surprising to find out how many of your friends, family and neighbours will have one hidden away in their sheds or garages.
It’s a good idea to clear the deck completely before you get started. Set aside any garden furniture, ornaments and plant or flower pots – that way you can avoid doing a Harry Redknapp and taking the heads off of your flowers!
Don’t forget to give your deck a quick sweep before you get started. You can also use a putty knife to remove any visible debris between deck boards and a small dustpan-style brush to get to those hard-to-reach areas.
When jet washing your deck, be sure to start on a lower setting and use a fan tip nozzle. Pressure washers are power pieces of kit, and using too harsher setting, particularly on softwood timber can cause damage. 500 to 600 psi is about right, but carry out a small patch test on more inconspicuous areas of the deck as you get started.
You’ll want to position the jet wash a couple of feet from the deck surface, and always wash with the grain, using a sweeping motion. If you go against the grain, you could damage the decking boards, resulting in an uneven surface. If your deck is attached or close to your house, wash away from your house. This will save the brickwork and windows from being pebble-dashed with water and mud.
For extra lift and brightness, you can also opt to use a chemical stripper or brightener. These solutions work well if the deck is particularly stained with mildew. Always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and re-jet wash your deck after using the solution with just water.
It’s important to note that composite decking boards should NOT be jet washed. They have been specifically designed to be easy to clean simply with soap and hose water.
Jet washing gives the deck an all-round cleaner, and brighter look. But often wood fibres can become raised due to the intake of water. Sanding down after a good jet wash will allow you to achieve a smooth, splinter-free finish.
It’s also a good idea to sand your deck down if you plan to stain or treat the decking timber. This will provide an exfoliated surface that will absorb the stain or seal far more effectively. Don’t forget to let your deck dry fully before you start the sanding process.
It’s really important to get the right sander. Something too harsh will cause irreversible damage to the timber, and you could find yourself having to replace decking boards. Orbital or oscillating sanders are the best tools for the job, paired with 80- and 100-grit sandpaper.
Always makes sure that you wear a mask when sanding. It’s a messy job that kicks up a lot of wood dust that you don’t really want to be breathing in. Keep your eyes protected from splintering wood by wearing eye protection. And, if you’re looking to protect the rest of your garden from the pending dust storm that’s about to occur, use dust sheets or tarpaulin to temporarily cover up your lawn, flowers, plants and patio and furniture.
Once you’ve finished the process, you’re going to be left with lots of dust. Grab an old or outdoor hoover or sweep away the dust. If staining or treating the deck is next on your agenda, you need to be quite thorough, removing as much dust as possible. Otherwise, the dust will settle in your new finish and it will look like the deck has spent the day at the beach.
As a product of nature, organically the structure of timber boards will slowly deteriorate over time. Whilst this process often occurs over a long period of time, it’s only natural and can’t be stopped.
However, treatments, stains and sealants are a bit like botox for wood. They preserve the appearance and structural properties of the decking boards for longer by protecting the timber from things such as rots, fungi and moisture.
All these things can hold their hands up to speeding up the process of deterioration. So, if you want your deck to last longer, you should apply stains and sealants at least every two years to keep this ageing process at bay.
The right treatment will depend on the type of timber and your desired finish.
Decking oils are generally clear and are used to enhance the natural appearance of the wood. A decent decking oil applied correctly will help to prevent weathering and change in the timber’s colour. It works to nourish the timber and prevent splits.
Decking stains on the other hand are used to seal the timber and are perfect if you’re looking to achieve a particular decking colour. They can peel, so you need to keep on top of staining, however, they are great for decks with high footfall because they provide an extra durable layer.
When it comes to applying the decking treatment, the best advice is always on the back of the manufacturer’s tin.
Always ensure the deck is clean, and for the best finish, well sanded before you get started. Don’t rush the treatment. Take your time over the application process and work in small patches at a time to achieve a uniform finish. Some treatments will need a second coat, and time to absorb in between coats. And remember to allow at least two days for the deck to dry before you use or walk on the deck.
Some manufacturers will advise that you use a soft-bristle paintbrush, others recommend a roller, and some advise both. Always start with any rails, so that you blend and drips or excess treatment into the deck as you go.
Leaving furniture in one place for a long period of time can cause irregularities across the deck. Where water gathers or sun exposure is limited, the colour of the timber will change. Mix up the feng shui every now and then.
If you’ve got plants, trees or bushes that encroach on or across your deck, aim to keep these trimmed back. Not only will this keep your deck clear, but will help to avoid water build-up and saturation, which can eventually lead to rot.
Outdoor mats look great, and can really create a cosy comfortable outdoor living space perfect for the summer months. However, when used on a deck, they can hold moisture and cause damage to the wood. It’s not to say that you can’t use outdoor mats on your deck, but avoid leaving them down for long periods of time.
It goes without saying, dog, cat and bird poo should be cleaned off of the deck immediately. And, it’s not just because it looks and smells pretty grim. Animal poo and urine can actually stain the timber. Pick up the nasties and wash away any urine with a hose.
Time to build a new deck? Here at Equestrian Fencing, we specialise in all thing’s timber. We sell a wide range of softwood, hardwood and composite decking, plus everything you’ll need to build a beautiful, long-lasting deck. Shop online today.