Deck OptionsDecksProducts and ServicesHow To Maintain A Wood Deck (The 101-Style Basics)

April 30, 2021

Hi there! Setting out to teach yourself how to maintain a wood deck…properly?

Whether you’ve already got a gorgeous deck or you’re getting ready to invest, if you’re nodding your head up and down, then welcome to the Solid State Construction blog! 

We’re the official deck nerds for Central MA, known for going well beyond the ‘Built To Code’ bottom line. 

Today we’d like to take few minutes to walk through the basics, shall we? Afterward, if you’re in our neck of the woods and have further questions, don’t hesitate to call.

How To Maintain A Wood Deck – The Easy Way

We’ll begin with this nifty visual showing you a general rule-of-thumb schedule from HouseLogic. 

deck care maintenance infographic by HouseLogic

To be honest with you, many homeowners who choose to invest in wood decks are completely aware of the fact wood requires regular TLC. It’s no surprise. They welcome it! 

Every year these folks tend to enjoy the routine of maintaining wood, even as it weathers. They also tend to enjoy gardening and landscaping and don’t consider it ‘maintenance’ keeping their yard looking great. 

On the other hand, are homeowners who’ve don’t have any idea what to expect. 

Let’s dive right in.

Three Primary Considerations 

  • Wood decks tend to see a ton of foot traffic, both from humans and animals (domestic and otherwise). Meanwhile, the weather is CONSTANTLY testing the wood’s integrity—a good thing most are made of well-known durable wood species. Our Wood Deck Options include cedar, mahogany, and pressure-treated lumber like southern pine. 
  • The vast majority of wear and tear to wood decks tends to be superficial in nature — cosmetic rather than major sections failing, framing issues, railings giving out, etc. The only exceptions here are wood decks that aren’t treated, protected, or maintained. They can fall into serious disrepair rather quickly. 
  • Decks that need the most maintenance are either getting too much shade and not enough sun or vice versa. The first causes wood to stay wet and moist longer (promoting mold, mildew, and stains), while the other bombards wood with too much UV that breaks down surface fibers and lignin. Finding an area with a good balance, combined with proper treatments and maintenance, is ideal.

That said, now let’s spend a couple of minutes touching on the four pillars of how to maintain a wood deck: cleaning, inspections, repairs, and resealing or finishing. 

Regularly Cleaning The Deck | Keeping It Tidy

Your goal is to keep your wood deck tidy. Keep leaves and debris from piling up. Don’t let wet clothes dry on the wood in the summer. Sweep regularly or run a leaf blower over it once in a while. These general tidying tasks actually have a significant impact on the lifespan of your wood.  

  • Cleaner: There are so many different commercial and homemade options. Your best bet is to ask your installer. They’ll know exactly what cleaners you should use and how often, depending on the type of wood your deck is made of. Read labels, and follow all safety precautions if you’re using chemicals.
  • Brushes: You’re going to run into a huge assortment of products that are both hand-held and broom-types. There are also pressure washers, but these can be risky! You’re just looking to scrub or clean one small area at a time, making sure to rinse frequently with clear water. Don’t let the dirty scrub water dry on the wood! Also, remember to clean railings from the bottom up, careful not to leave stains on the main decking below. 

Perform Regular Inspections | Hunt For Rot

As you keep your wood deck clean and tidy through the year, always keep a lookout for signs of trouble. These signs include mold and mildew, of course, but most importantly…rot. 

Hunting For Wood Rot

Have a conversation with your installer about the wood being used and how it responds to moisture. 

Regardless, no matter what species we’re talking about, it can’t stay wet too long. Look for deterioration and decay everywhere! 

  • Under the boards and between them where debris gets packed in.
  • At the ledger where boards attach to your home.
  • The underside of stair boards and beneath the deck in general.
  • Around long nails that should be replaced with decking nails or screws.
  • Around joists, posts, and beams. 
  • All hardware – is it rusting? 

Small spots and shallow spots can be easily dealt with, but understand the cause! Is it normal wear and tear or the result of something else?

Doing Needed DIY-Friendly Repairs Where Appropriate

Generally speaking, little spots of rot where Mother Nature is doing her dirty work can be dealt with quickly and inexpensively. Assuming you’ll never completely ‘let go’ of your deck and let it fall apart, you can remove small areas with a chisel then treat it with a preservative. 

You can also easily sand any area needed by hand or using a sander. This is to get rid of rot, mildew, splintered areas, etc. 

  • Reinforced Framing: What if your deck is getting old and the framing is beginning to lose some integrity to encroaching rot and decay? If you don’t want to replace supporting members yet, what can you do? Reinforce them with treated lumber or an equivalent. 
  • Stipping Old Finish: Too much peeling? If it’s time for a new finish, you can strip off the old one. A good thing to remember straight from HomeTips: “Opt for the least caustic product that will do the job: Some strippers are mild and biodegradable, while others are caustic and toxic. It’s best to buy a small amount and test it in an inconspicuous place.” Follow the labeled instructions and protect other surrounding surfaces! 
  • Repairing & Replacing Boards: Depending on the quality of your installer, or the previous installer, you may need to replace old longer protruding nails with appropriate decking nails/screws. You can also easily replace boards that are too far gone. 

Reclean & Seal/Finish The Deck If Needed

Reclean the deck after any repairs, sanding, and dealing with rot. You want to ensure it’s well-prepared for a new finish. To check, just get a couple of areas of the deck wet and see if the water beads up. If it doesn’t that means it’s sinking into the wood! 

Small Tip: Have you been dealing with pests or even termites? Talk to your deck installer about proper finishes with insecticides and whether or not they’re appropriate. 

Rather than try and recreate the wheel, here are your core finish options:

  • A clear sealer to showcase the wood’s gorgeous natural grain and color.
  • A toner to add color while revealing the natural grain and providing extra UV protection. 
  • A semi-transparent stain that tints your wood, but not completely. Grain still shows. 
  • A solid stain and opaque color that seals the deck from weathering damage and completely covers the natural wood grain.

What it comes down to is how often you want to re-coat. High-grade finishes should soak into your wood. On the other side of the spectrum are thin coats that only sit on the surface. 

Don’t Forget Preventive Measures In The Fall

Ah…Fall: the birds are migrating, temperatures are lazily dropping, the trees are transforming almost by the day it seems…must be time to clean the deck again!

If you didn’t get the chance to add that new finish in the Spring, now’s your 2nd chance. Ideally, you want to be working with your deck before the temperatures drop too low (or high). 

  • Are any bushes or trees getting too close? Shoot to keep plumage at least a foot from the deck to prevent mold, moss, and rot. 
  • Yep, got to keep the leaves from piling up in corner sections or against the home.
  • Are there any items on the deck that have been sitting there since the summer? Keep moving things like planters, chairs, and tables to avoid staining and discoloring.
  • How are the gutters? Make sure the gutter system is working properly and not dumping or leaking water on the deck. 

Wrapping Up: Want To Skip The Maintenance? Consider Composite Alternatives

Here at Solid State Construction, we excel at custom wood deck building AND installing composite decking systems. With these modern systems, you can get the looks of wood without really any of the conventional maintenance aside from basic cleaning. 

For Central MA and Boston homeowners, we specialize in TimberTech® AZEK Composite Decking. Here’s a photo of what their ‘Weathered Teak’ boards from their Vintage Collection look like in the sun.

vintage weathered teak from timbertech

TimberTech AZEK has broken new ground in the composite-deck industry with its proprietary Alloy Armour Technology to prevent fading, weathering, and staining. Did you know their decks are so tough that they’re backed by a 50-Year Limited Fade & Stain Warranty?

Here are the other fundamental benefits when you compare composite maintenance with how to maintain a wood deck. 

  • A wide range of color choices, variegation options, and woodgrain patterns.
  • Cutting-edge polymer capping provides pure protection from mold and moisture damage.
  • Your new deck won’t splinter, rot, crack or warp like natural wood. 
  • Alloy Armour Technology also resists scratching, staining, and fading.
  • The boards stay up to 30 degrees cooler than competing composite decking.
  • Made of up to 50% recycled PVC for excellent sustainability!

Have more questions? Your best bet is to call your nearest deck professionals. In our neck of the woods, that’s us. Feel free to Contact Solid State Construction anytime. We’ll be happy to get you the answers you need. We hope this article has been helpful, and thank you for your time today.