Lakeside deck
Photo by Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock

Protect your deck: tips for keeping your deck looking new summer after summer

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A good deck isn’t just an extension of your living space—it’s central to your cottage. As the entryway into the house, it’s the spot for joyful reunions and long hours spent with family and friends.

However, this also means that your deck is a high-traffic area, which means constant wear and tear. Add to that exposure to the sun and rain, and wood begins to weather, change colours, soften and crack.

Keeping your deck looking new season after season isn’t just about looks—it’s also about ensuring that it’s in good structural condition. So how do you keep your deck looking like new?

Inspect your deck every spring for areas that might need repair

 Winter snow and seasonal weather can slowly ruin your deck. Schedule a yearly deck inspection and be sure to keep an eye out for loose boards, protruding nails, loose screws, split boards, cracks, rotting wood, mildew growth or any other areas that might need repair.

However, the inspection should go beyond the cosmetic. Inspect every joint, frame and beam supporting the deck, and don’t forget to check the ledger (the part of the framing that attaches the deck to your cottage). Make sure its metal capping is free from rust and deterioration.

Make any repairs as necessary, and if anything is outside your capabilities, call in an expert.

Wash your deck

Keeping your deck clean will prevent mould and moss growth. Every spring—especially before making any repairs—give your deck a good washing. The first step is to ensure that you’re choosing an appropriate cleanser; a deck made of wood will require a different product than a deck made of composite materials.

You may also consider renting a pressure washer to remove any dirt and debris from the wood, particularly if you plan on staining or sealing it. (Even with newer decks, this step is important in order to remove the mill glaze, which can prevent stain from penetrating the wood.) But be careful to keep the pressure wand moving, follow the grain and go with the boards, so as not to damage or gouge the wood.

Stain and seal your deck

You may have heard that an effective seal will cause water to bead on your deck’s surface, but while it’s true that wax additives in stain will produce an initial water-beading effect, a good stain will still protect your wood long after that effect has worn off. To properly assess your deck, inspect the wood to ensure there’s still a sound coating on the surface. If any bare wood is exposed due to wear, you’ll need to recoat.

You can preserve your deck by choosing anything from a clear wood preservation that will show the grain, to a darker stain with a solid finish. But no matter what colour you opt for, make sure that you’re choosing a product that has UV protection, repels water, and has a mildew inhibitor.

Make deck maintenance part of your weekly cleaning and landscaping routine

To prevent rot and moss growth, trim nearby bushes and plants; they should be at least 12 inches away from the deck. To prevent mould and mildew, sweep away any debris that’s accumulated on a weekly basis, including leaves and pine needles. And be sure to clean up any barbecue oil spills immediately; the grease will ruin your deck’s finish. If possible, you should also rearrange or reorganize your deck furniture regularly—this will prevent the wood from discolouring in particular areas.

For heavy mould, mildew or algae growth on your deck, use Activox to remove contamination. Before you start, test it in an inconspicuous area to ensure colour fastness, and don’t use it on top of a clear sealer that you’ve previously applied. For removal of grey wood, use Natura Wood Prep or Woodshield Wood Restorer.

Prepare your deck for winter before the first snowfall

To prevent moisture from accumulating over the winter, remove any furniture, planters, or barbecues from your deck every fall and put these in storage. Check between deck boards for any fallen leaves, which can reduce water drainage, and remove them.

Remove heavy snow

During winter trips up to the cottage, remove snow build-up, which can cause warping and water damage. Just like with pressure washing, shovel along the boards with the grain of the wood, and use a plastic shovel and a broom, which are less likely to cause damage to the deck’s surface.

Finally, avoid chemicals and salt to remove ice—they may damage the deck’s surface or reduce the effectiveness of seals.