Yearlong Enjoyment

By Diane Schlindwein

July 3, 2009 4 min read


It's time to deck out your deck for cooler weather

Diane Schlindwein

Creators News Service

Most of us associate backyard decks with warm weather fun, but many people relax on them during the fall and winter months, too.

"We're finding that more people are using their decks in colder weather," said Paul Mackie, a field representative for the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association (WRCLA). "Some people barbeque outside all year long, and more are using gas-powered heaters to extend the time they can enjoy the deck."

Whether or not you plan to use it in the winter, you should properly maintain your outside space before the weather gets too cold. "Clean the deck and its accessories and store them before they are exposed to the elements," Mackie said. Empty planters of soil and turn them upside down.

"Deck cleaners and pressure washers help remove dirt, nail stains, algae and mildew," said Abby Buford, spokesperson for Lowe's. Many cleaners are available in premixed liquid concentrates. Be sure to read the manufacturer's directions before using the product and follow all safety precautions and warnings on the label.

It's best to seal wood decks every two or three years. "Make sure to choose a specially formulated stain or sealer to repel water, resist mildew and prevent fading in high traffic areas," Buford said. Sealers and stains are either water- or oil-based, but oil-based requires less frequent re-coating and upkeep than water-based.

Don't seal if rain is expected within the next few days. Moreover, it just makes sense not to apply a sealer if leaves are going to be falling during that time. "If you are reapplying stain, be sure to do it while the temperature will allow it to dry," said Mackie. "Don't apply stain when it is below 50 degrees."

Since hot tubs are popular deck additions, there is no reason to abandon them in the fall and winter. "I live in Seattle and have a hot tub that I use all year long," Mackie said. "A lot of people do that and it's great if you can."

Maybe you don't want to spend too much time out in the cold, but still like to look out at the creatures that are wintering in your backyard. Even on the bleakest days, birds can bring color, life and song to your deck. And if you feed them, they will come.

Cold can be rough on birds, who might lose up to one-fifth of their body weight overnight just trying to keep warm. They spend the majority of their days searching for food, and in the winter snow might be the only water source they'll find without your help. Keep fresh seed in your feeders, offer suet to keep their energy up and replenish water in a birdbath.

Cardinals in particular don't mind the cold. Place a few non-salted peanuts on your deck rail and before you know it, they will appear. You'll be surprised how quickly they come to trust you and will regularly fly in to pick up a treat, snow or no snow.

If you are removing snow, avoid using metal shovels. A nylon or plastic shovel will be easier than metal on both the finish and the wood. "A metal shovel will scar the surface and will catch on fasteners," Mackie said. Shovel lengthwise on the deck boards. And, if possible, avoid applying salt or other ice melters, as they may discolor or damage some deck finishes.

The cooler months are a good time to either construct or design a new deck. The WRCLA website at has a free design tool that allows users to plan out this new addition to their home.

"When you think about it, building a deck or adding to it is really the most affordable way to expand living space to a home," Mackie said.

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