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Install a Pocket Door to Save Floor Space Dear James: I was raised in an older house that had pocket doors, but they never worked smoothly. I am building my own house now, and I would like to use pocket doors. How can I avoid the problems with those old doors? — Pat G. Dear Pat: …Read more. Stencil Your Old Laminate Kitchen Countertop Dear James: I would love to remodel my kitchen, but my budget must go for my kids' new shoes first. Is there any inexpensive method to improve the appearance of my old laminate kitchen countertop? — Amy P. Dear Amy: Do not despair. There is a …Read more. Regular Maintenance Keeps Gutters Open Dear James: Every time it rains, water overflows my gutter and streams down my window and cedar siding. It doesn't seem to be hurting the window, but I've noticed the siding is starting to peel and flake. Do you have any suggestions? — Rich P.… …Read more. Build a Compost Bin to Recycle Wastes Dear James: My children are learning about composting in their science class. We want to do our part for the environment and build an inexpensive compost bin. Do you have any suggestions on building a simple, yet effective one? — Hope D. …Read more.
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Clean and Treat Deck to Keep it Beautiful

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Dear James: We have just finished a lower-level addition to our existing wood deck. Our old deck is black and looks bad. What is the best way to restore its beauty, and what should we do to the new deck? — Steve P.

Dear Steve: Nothing looks worse than an old discolored deck. When it gets badly discolored, it can actually become slippery and dangerous when wet. If you wait too long to treat the surface, it can become damaged beyond repair and never look good again.

If it has been more than three years since you treated your old deck, it is due for both a cleaning and treatment. Your new deck needs to be treated, too, but wait about a month for its moisture level to stabilize. Treat both the decks at the same time so they are on the same treatment schedule.

Even though the decking lumber is pressure-treated, it is still attacked by moisture, temperature changes and the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The swelling and shrinking from moisture changes can cause any wood to warp and split.

UV rays break down the materials that hold the wood fibers together. You have seen how these UV rays can destroy your deck chairs and cushions. I think everyone, at one time or another, has sat in an old chair on a deck and gone right through it.

Discoloration that you see is primarily caused by mildew. If wood is not treated and it gets wet, fungus grows and discolors it quickly. This is just a surface condition and not as damaging to the wood as moisture or UV rays.

The first step to beautifying and saving your deck is to clean it. A pressure washer is ideal, but do not set the pressure too high, or the wood can be damaged.

Clean your new deck, too, because there can be some mill residue on it.

Instead of using a pressure washer, I sometimes just spray on an oxygen-based bleach and use a brush or broom to work it into the wood. It oxidizes the dirt and mildew so it can be rinsed away with a garden hose. Avoid using a common chlorine-based bleach because it is hard on the wood and kills plants.

If the old decking is still too dark or stained by tanin from leaves, mildew or rust from fastners, apply a wood brightener to the wood. Wood brightener contains oxalic acid, which will not harm the wood but will bring the wood back to its original color.

Now that both your decks are clean, give them several days to thoroughly dry out. When you go to buy the stain/sealer, the array of deck "sealing," "preserving," "rejuvenating," etc. products will be staggering. Don't just buy what is on sale or take the advice of the salesperson.

The newest and longest-lasting type of stain/sealer is Defy Extreme Wood Stain (www.defywoodstain.com/extreme). It is a synthetic stain, so it actually soaks down into the wood instead of just coating the surface, as some oil or wax stains do, and it does not support mildew growth.

Extreme stain is unique in that it contains zinc oxide particles, which reflect the damaging UV rays from the sun. These are nano-sized particles that are invisible to the eye. There are actually more than 30 trillion zinc oxide particles per square inch. These particles are also resistant to mold and mildew.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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