Does your deck need some spring maintenance? Probably. Decks endure weather year-round, but Old Man Winter—with his snow, ice, and rain—is especially tough on wood. “Excessive moisture can be much more problematic than summer UV exposure,” says Sjoerd Bos, the managing director of the Sansin Corporation. “Wetting causes the wood to swell, then shrink while drying. From this natural expansion and contraction, little cracks will form as the wood cycles through these extreme conditions.” The result? Wood becomes discoloured and coatings wear out prematurely.
Poor, long-suffering deck! Follow these spring deck maintenance tips to give yours a little TLC before cottage season ramps up again.
Inspect the deck, and look for signs of damage: splintered or rotten boards (you may need to replace them) or protruding nails (hammer them back in).
Need to build a new deck? Here’s our expert advice.
After sweeping, clean the deck with a low-toxicity deck wash. Bos recommends a scrub brush over pressure washing (do it incorrectly and you can accidentally damage the wood). Rinse the deck with a hose, and let it dry thoroughly.
Do you want your wood to weather naturally? A clear, water-repellent, protective coating will let the wood “silver” but protect it from rot and blackening, says Bos.
To maintain the natural wood tone, or add colour, on the other hand, “choose a breathable, water-borne wood finish,” says Bos. It helps shield the wood from UV and water damage. Look at the product’s label: “‘Penetrating’ finishes get the product or the colour deeper into the wood. This offers more protection, and, ultimately, easier maintenance.”
Keep on top of your deck’s health all season long; address problems before next winter rolls around. Never mind the weather: heavy foot traffic, mould, moss and lichen, and oil and grease spills can all mess with your wood. “Well-timed maintenance is key,” says Bos. “Decks can wear unevenly. Putting on a new coat of finish before more corrective action is needed is the best approach.”
Got more post-winter work to do? Here are 5 tips for easy spring cleaning at the cottage.