If the mere sight of your deck has you gagging, you’ve already considered how to get it looking brand new again – without replacing the entire thing. Pressure washing your wood deck could accomplish the look you’re going for and with just a little elbow grease and a Saturday afternoon, your deck will be ready for the backyard party of the season.
However, before dragging the pressure washer out of the garage and attaching, what seems like, an endless supply of hoses and nozzles, you must do a bit of deck maintenance to ensure it’s ready for safe use.
Deck maintenance is not an annual project but should be a part of your yearly upkeep plan. During each season, walk the perimeter of your home to check for worn or broken fixtures, clogged or damaged gutters, cracks or chips in your home’s exterior surfaces and foundation, peeling paint, and any growing organisms like moss or algae on your patio slabs.
Step 1: Clear Debris
Before you begin cleaning your deck, remove any debris that has accumulated. Old leaves, branches, and twigs can get caught in any corners or between deck boards. Remove all toys, plants, and furniture from the deck so you can clean underneath.
Step 2: Inspect Your Deck
Walk the full length and perimeter of your deck to inspect it thoroughly. Take note of any rotting or warped wood, deck boards that are popping up causing a tripping hazard, loose spindles, railings, and cracking posts.
Grab a flashlight and inspect underneath the deck as well to check for rot in your ledger board and joists. Investigate the state of connective hardware like joist hangers – excessive amounts of rust may require replacement. Loose or damaged ledgers are the leading cause of deck collapse so keep your family and friends safe by conducting an annual inspection.
Step 3: Make Needed Repairs
Now that you have a great idea of what repairs need to be made to keep your deck in great shape for years to come, it’s time to craft your list for the home improvement store and take a trip, if needed.
If your deck was built with nails and they’re beginning to pop, it might be a good idea to replace them with decking screws to secure the boards in place and avoid any tripping accidents. Rotting wood spots smaller than a dollar coin can be chiseled out and filled with strong wood filler according to package directions but if the rotting section is larger, it may be a good idea to replace the individual boards.
When ledger or joist fasteners are overly rusted and look like they may need replacing, instead of ripping the deck apart, sister the joints with new fasteners to build stability. When unsure, it might be a good idea to contact a trusted deck contractor for more information or a second opinion.
Step 4: Pressure Wash
Pressure washing commonly uses a pressurized spray of water to clear tough moss or algae and caked-on dirt and debris; however, there are two main types of pressure washing – power washing and soft washing.
Power washing is what most people equate with pressure washing but with a wood deck, the extreme pressure used can gouge the wood planks and cause increased levels of damage to its structural integrity. For those decks that have black and green staining caused by bacteria, power washing doesn’t rid your absorbent wood of the culprit in its entirety. If you don’t have your own pressure washer, you don’t have to buy your own because there are online pressure washer rentals that you can rent to clean your deck.
Soft washing, on the other hand, is the most effective deck cleaning method. It uses a lower-pressure spray in combination with a safe, biodegradable washing solution that kills 100% of that dingy-looking bacteria plaguing your deck boards.
10 Bonus Deck Maintenance Tips:
- Test your pressure washing technique in an inconspicuous area or on a spare piece of wood before beginning to clean each wood plank to ensure that the pressure and angle of the nozzle do not cause deck damage.
- Using wildlife and foliage-safe cleaning solution, use a scrub brush to clean out the spaces between deck boards that pressure washer sprays often miss.
- After cleaning, consider sealing your deck to preserve its strength and appearance – making it much easier to clean next year.
- For composite decking, be sure to check your warranty information as high-power washing can void any warranty when damaged.
- Trim the bushes and trees around or near your deck to keep leaves from piling up in your relaxation space and provide the perfect amount of shade for bacteria to grow.
- Check your home’s gutter system for leaks or damage that may be contributing to your dirty deck. Moisture and shade are the two things that accelerate algae and mold growth on your wood deck. If this is the case, you may want to consider professional residential or commercial gutter cleaning.
- Foliage near your deck should be covered before washing or sealing your deck to prevent damage to your expensive landscaping plants.
- Before sealing your deck, give it a light sanding to smooth out any rough spots, splinters, or uneven areas to give your deck a prepped surface for your chosen sealant. Pressure washers can cause some “fuzzy” areas but a piece of 80-grit sandpaper on a pole sander will take care of that before sealing.
- Once a year is not enough to maintain your deck. Pay close attention to its structure throughout the year, and take the time to sweep off the debris before it gets too much to handle.
- If deck maintenance is too much to handle, consider hiring a professional team with the experience to take care of it for you. Be sure to choose a company whose employees are highly trained and fully insured before inviting them to your home for your annual deck cleaning.
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