Deck Prep Tips

By Mark J. Donovan

March 25, 2019 4 min read

Spring is the perfect time of year for doing some basic deck prep work for the ensuing warmer weather. Before you start pulling out the grill and deck furniture, inspect your deck to see how it has weathered the winter. Look for cracked and splitting decking, faded and/or peeling deck stain or paint, signs of mold and mildew, rot and decay, and damaged deck railings.

Regardless of whether your decking material is wood or composite, at a minimum give it a good cleaning in the spring. Use a mild cleaning solution, a stiff bristle brush and a garden hose to give it a good cleaning. Alternatively, you can use a pressure washer; however, take care not to damage the decking boards by using too high a pressure setting. If you observe black splotchy mold and mildew patches, use a deck cleaner that can remove them. Also, if your wood deck has bleached out and faded to an undesirable gray and you want to restore its original color, look for cleaning products that can specifically do so.

After giving a wood deck a good cleaning, look to see whether the water beads up on the boards or instead absorbs into the wood. If the water seems to absorb into it, then the next step in your deck prep work is to apply a deck sealer. When applying any deck sealer, make sure the decking is completely dry and there is no rain in the forecast for a couple of days. If it rains within 24 hours of your applying the deck sealer, it may never fully dry. As a result, the deck may remain permanently tacky. Also, when applying a clear deck sealant, make sure not to apply too heavy a coat. Otherwise, again, you may end up with a permanently tacky deck surface.

When it comes to specific deck water repellant products, I prefer a semitransparent stain to the traditional clear deck water sealer. Clear deck water sealers can be difficult to apply and are apt to leave the deck permanently tacky if too much is applied. Also, deck water sealers tend to peel after a couple of years. Stripping or sanding a deck to remove a peeling deck sealer is a project you want to avoid at all costs. Expect to have to apply a deck sealer every couple of years or so, even if you use a semitransparent stain. Also, look to use deck water repellants that include a mildewcide, which will help to impede the growth of mold and mildew. Mother Nature is simply very rough on deck surfaces.

Finally, as part of your deck prep work, if you observe any rotted or decaying boards, floor joists or railing pieces, replace them with new moisture- and insect-resistant lumber. Make sure to use corrosion-resistant fasteners for attaching the new lumber. Required new decking material should be installed prior to sealing the deck.

Once you've completed your spring deck preparation work, you can expect to enjoy the beauty and functionality of your deck for the entire warm weather season, with little to no maintenance. Simply sweep or hose down the deck a couple of times during the summer to keep your outdoor living space looking new and feeling wonderful.

Mark J. Donovan's website is at

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