Spring is almost here! And after a long, cold, and very snowy winter for many in the United States, just the thought of enjoying a warm day in April or May must warm the soul. For deck owners, all you have to do is just step outside onto your porch or back deck and soak up the sun, right? Not so fast.
If you own a deck or porch, you know there's work to be done! After winter, there's bound to be stains, dirt, and grime that has been left to sit and settle into the boards and between the gaps. If you're not careful, there are a few ways you can actually ruin the look of your deck if you're not careful.
Here are the top mistakes to avoid when cleaning or refinishing your deck:
1. Letting nature do the work
If you think the wind and rain that come during the spring will clean your deck or porch for you, think again. All the elements can do is move around dirt and grime, not remove it.
2. Not clearing the gaps
Allowing any part of your deck to accumulate dirt, leaves, and anything else in between the gaps of your deck boards can lead to serious issues. Any organic matter that's left to rot can cause discoloring and premature rotting of wood (especially softer woods like pine and cedar). Also, because water tends to accumulate in any area where it cannot run off, it will pool and potentially cause your decking to warp and twist. Do your boards a favor, mind the gap and clear them out thoroughly.
3. Excessive powerwashing
Decking materials, whether they be as strong as Ipe or made of composite materials, are not steel or glass. They can be damaged by prolonged power washing, using the wrong tip, or too high of a PSI. If you have never pressure washed a deck before, you need to do the following:
- Use a fan tip
- Wash along the grain and the length of the board
- Never aim too close to the deck surface
4. Not cleaning your deck prior to refinishing
So, let's say you have a new deck made of Ipe and it's due for its very first annual refinishing. Instead of reading the directions, you simply sweep off some leaves and dirt and apply the oil. Everything looks fine the first day, but after a while you notice strange markings on your deck. Surely, it must be the oil! Nope. The oil did its job. Unfortunately, it's not enough to sweep off your deck prior to oiling it. It has to be thoroughly cleaned so the finishing solution of your choice can adhere to the grain and protect the wood. If there's dirt still left in the wood, the oil cannot properly soak into the surface. Use a wood deck cleaner and brightener to prevent giving yourself more work and an ugly deck to look at.
5. Not checking the weather prior to refinishing
It's Saturday morning and you are going to oil your deck first thing in the morning. You oil your deck in no time flat. Sunday morning, everything still looks good. Then it rains. You don't notice it at first, but after a few days you notice the finish is uneven and it looks like the wood has spots all over it. What happened? Because the oil had not yet fully dried and settled into the wood, the finish became uneven. To prevent this from happening, make sure your deck is completely dry 24 hours prior to and after applying any finish or sealer.
Aviod these mistakes and you can give yourself the best chance of not spending a lot of time and money on future deck maintenance and repairs. Instead, you can clean your deck, apply a finish, and enjoy it for the remainder of the year.