Your Home
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Tips & info on maintaining and enjoying your Connecticut home
 
August 2010
 
Some nice green grass

Do It Yourself
Check Your Deck Once a Year

Part 1 | Part 2 - Above Your Deck
Page 1 - Cleaning | Page 2 - Repair | Page 3 - Sealing

How to maintain and enjoy your deck

Part 2, Page 1 - Cleaning

While wood decks are a beautiful and quality addition to a home, they require special care to maintain their beauty and glow. Wood decks can be strong and long lasting, but can also be extremely vulnerable to the elements and can become weak without proper care.

As already covered in part 1 of this article, proper deck maintenance should begin with a visual inspection. With regular maintenance and inspection, a wood deck should last up to 15 years.

Deck Cleaning and Care
Regular maintenance, preservation and care of any deck should include a thorough cleaning before repairing and sealing of the wood.

The most important thing to remember before applying a protective finish to your deck is to do adequate surface preparation. Just as a car should not be waxed without a thorough washing first, any sort of coating should not be applied to a deck without adequate cleaning. Proper adhesion of any stain or sealant will not occur unless the surface, whether new or previously stained, is free from oil, grease, dust, dirt and loose wood particles.

For quickest and most efficient cleaning, the use of a pressure washer is recommended. Pressure washing is the best and fastest way to clean your outdoor surfaces of any pests, dirt, and caked-on grime. It is extremely important to follow manufacturer’s instructions and test both the pressure and the distance of the washer to the deck surface on an inconspicuous portion of the deck before the whole deck is power washed. The stream of water can be so powerful that it can erode the surface of the wood, causing damage.

Tips for proper pressure washing include keeping the water cold, making sure not to penetrate too deeply with steam. Such moisture can potentially rot the wood, or leave it weak in spots so that the planks are more likely to break. Taking care to use an even sweeping motion helps to prevent too much pressure concentrated in one spot when the sheer force of the water can cause dents, dips, and vulnerable spots in the deck itself.


Power washing the deck

A common misconception is that a deck cannot be cleaned without a pressure washer. Though the pressure washer is a tool that saves time and labor, it is not necessary to use one in order to clean a wood deck. A quality cleaner purchased at a home improvement center, a simple deck brush and garden hose can complete the job very well. Some dirt can be removed with only a hose, but use of an appropriate wood cleaner and brightener should be applied in order to be done correctly.

There are products specifically suited to the task of removing the presence of mold, mildew or algae from the surface of the wood. Chlorine bleach is also excellent for removal of mold, mildew and algae, but it also can cause premature failure of the coating. Using a non-chlorine bleach cleaner is recommended.

Non-Toxic Cleaning
The most environmentally friendly way to clean a deck is to use oxygen bleach, a scrub brush, and elbow grease. Oxygen bleach is different from chlorine bleach, the most common type of bleach found in most homes. When a deck is cleaned with oxygen bleach, the only "chemicals" left over will be oxygen, water, and soda ash. Oxygen bleach comes in a powder form which, when mixed with water, creates powerful bubbles that will break up most stains on a deck. Some stains may need to be scrubbed, but the oxygen bleach will not harm any nearby trees, plants, pets, or small children.

After thoroughly cleaning your deck you should wait at least 24 hours for it to dry. If there is damp, humid or rainy weather, you may need to wiat longer for the deck to dry before you stain and/or seal it.

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Some nice green grass

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