How to Keep Your Deck Looking Great and Lasting Longer
The deck is an outdoor extension of your home, and it is important to keep it in good condition. Periodic maintenance at Pro Deck Builders Charleston can help avoid major problems down the road.
Sweep the entire deck and clear away any furniture, toys, or planters. Use a screwdriver to feel for soft or rotten wood.
Decks that contact your home must be flashed to prevent moisture penetration, which can result in mold and mildew. Using the proper flashing will also help your deck last longer and avoid costly repairs. Flashing consists of metal (usually galvanized tin or aluminum) that extends from the deck to the house in a continuous length. It seals the contact area and prevents water from corroding deck fasteners and joist hangers.
Many of the tragic deck collapses that occur involve faulty ledger boards and improper installation. The ledger is the board that attaches the deck to the house and must be securely attached to the house with joist hangers or bolts. Decks that are built with standard lumber that is not treated for use outdoors are more prone to failure and may collapse when the deck pulls away from the house. Ledgers often rot from the inside out due to poor wood preservative treatment, a lack of flashing, or inappropriate construction.
If you’re building a new deck, follow the DCA 6 prescriptive and recently released International Residential Codes (IRC) when determining joist size and ledger attachment, and install deck flashing that reaches from the house to just below the bottom of the first deck board. Be sure to use a non-corrosive deck metal, such as stainless steel or galvanized steel, to protect the fasteners from any wood preservative chemicals that may leak out of the treated lumber.
During a deck inspection, look for any signs of decay or mold that might indicate a problem with the ledger board and flashing. Check to see if the ledger is properly fastened to the house and if the deck joists are fastened with lag bolts or carriage bolts rather than nails.
If you have a deck that does not have any flashing and it runs parallel to your home, pry up a row of deck boards and install flashing by sliding the piece under the top deck board in order to reach underneath the siding. You may have to cut notches in the deck boards for obstructions and pull out some nails to slip the flashing under the deck joists.
Check the nails and screws.
While nails may seem like a convenient choice for building wood structures, they don’t offer the same stability as screws. Screws, which are inserted with a power driver instead of being pounded in with a hammer or propelled in with a nailer, have threads that prevent them from backing out of the wood. This helps them hold up better over time.
However, nails are still required in many framing applications where a joist hanger must distribute loads along the entire length of the joint rather than concentrating them at one end. And the heads of nails can discolor or stain some types of wood, including redwood and cedar, while screws are more likely to be concealed beneath the surface.
Another advantage of using screws is that they can be removed without damaging the wood underneath, which can be a problem when trying to remove loose nails that have popped out. This makes screws a good choice for laying down decking boards. However, when it comes to attaching the deck’s framing and structural elements, a combination of nails and screws should be used. If a deck builder exclusively uses screws, it might not meet some building codes or fail during a storm.
When it comes to securing a handrail, it is best to use either lag bolts or deck screws. While lag bolts are generally considered stronger, deck screws are more convenient and secure enough for the job. Both are available in a variety of sizes, head styles, and coatings. For a smoother look, try to match the screw head with the handrail.
If you have a deck that’s over 15 years old (building codes were different back then) and it hasn’t been inspected in awhile, it’s a good idea to check the fasteners. Decks that move or collapse under the weight of a person are dangerous and can cause serious injury or even death.
A good way to assess the safety of a deck is to walk around it and wiggle each board. If it moves, inspect the fasteners and replace any that are rusting or have come loose. For older decks, it’s also a good idea to check the ledger connection, a long piece of wood that runs from the deck to the house and connects to the interior floor support. If the ledger connection isn’t properly supported, it can become disconnected from the home and allow the deck to fall off the house, or the deck can collapse.
Check the railings and handrails.
A deck without railings can be a dangerous place for children or guests, particularly those with mobility issues. A fall from just a few feet could break bones, even if the person doesn’t hit the ground hard. Even if a deck doesn’t have to have railings by code, they add a nice aesthetic element and can make the area feel more inviting and secure. Check the railings and handrails regularly for signs of wear and tear. If they’re starting to splinter or crack, they’ll need to be replaced. The materials used for a deck’s railings also require regular treatments to protect them from moisture penetration and sun exposure, which can cause the material to warp or crack. These conditions can quickly lead to rot, insect infestations, and structural damage, which makes the deck unsafe to use.
While you’re inspecting the railings, you should also be looking for any areas where the wood appears soft or discolored. This may indicate rot, and it’s important to take care of these problems as soon as possible. Check especially in the areas where the deck connects to a standing structure, such as the ledger board or the place where stairs meet the ground. This is where most collapses occur, and it’s important to ensure the fasteners holding the deck to the house are solid and strong.
In addition, you should periodically sand or scrape the surface of your deck to remove any soft spots or debris that accumulates. Keep in mind that these types of imperfections can trap water and dirt underneath, promoting mold and mildew growth and leading to rot over time.
Another item to look for during a deck inspection is any hardware that’s rusted. This is a common problem that often occurs due to the constant exposure of the hardware to harsh weather conditions and the sun’s UV rays. This rust can severely weaken the hardware, making it more prone to breaking and snapping.
In addition, you should also sweep the deck on a regular basis and remove any debris that gets caught between the boards. This will promote air movement, which will help prevent fungus and mold from growing on the deck. In the winter, you can consider covering the deck with a tarp to limit the amount of snow and moisture that it’s exposed to.
Clean the deck.
Clean your deck regularly to remove dirt buildup, mildew, and other stains. A broom, brush, or hand brush should be used to loosen and pull off any debris that is stuck between the planks. To eliminate stubborn or deep-set stains, a special surface cleaner is available that is especially gentle on wooden decks and has an integrated rinsing function. In addition, it is also possible to mix up a natural cleaning agent that is compatible with your wood type and condition. To make this, simply use 29 ml of ammonia-free liquid dish soap, 3.8 liters of water, 473 ml of rubbing alcohol, and 1.1 liters of oxygen bleach (which is suitable for timber). The solution should be left on the deck for several hours and then rinsed off with clean water.
You can find a range of cleaning solutions that are specially formulated for different types of decking at your local hardware store. For a quick fix, you can even spray your deck with a garden hose or power washer on the lowest setting. However, if you use this method, be sure to keep the nozzle at least 6 inches away from the deck so that it isn’t damaged by the high pressure of the water.
Before you start washing your deck, check for any loose or raised boards, splintered boards, or rusty nails or screws. If you see any issues, tighten them or replace them right away, as these can weaken the structure of your deck and create safety hazards.
Once you have cleaned your deck, allow it to dry completely before applying any additional treatments or using the deck again. This is to ensure that the bleach ingredients in the cleaner have had a chance to seep into the wood and fully evaporate. In addition, if you are planning to stain your deck, it’s best to do so on a day when there is low humidity so that the finish will be able to absorb into the wood properly.
It is also important to protect any greenery or landscaping that surrounds your deck by covering it with a tarp. This will help prevent any accidental spills of your cleaning solution from damaging plants and grasses. If you are unable to cover the plants and greenery with a tarp, consider covering them with old sheets or blankets while you work.