Regular maintenance ensures a good-looking deck that will last the distance
A well-maintained deck is an asset in more ways than one. Keep it clean, stain-free and looking good and you’ll want to use it all the time. Not only that, when it comes time to sell your home even an older deck, if meticulously maintained, will immeasurably add to your property’s resale value.
Caring for your timber
The finish applied to a timber deck not only enhances its look; it also helps to protect it from the ravages of the weather and the impact of constant use. One option is to paint your deck. If you use a superior-quality exterior paint and choose the right colour, the effect can be very good — and it might be several years before you need to touch up the paint or do a complete repaint. But be assured, regular repainting will be necessary.
Decking finishes, which include stains and oils, are the more popular choices today. These simultaneously protect the timber from weather damage and maintain the natural appearance of the timber itself.
Decking oils are intended to penetrate the surface of the timber, providing a natural appearance. Decking oils do not form a significant surface film that can later be damaged or peel. In comparison, decking stains generally contain coloured pigments and obscure the appearance of decking to a greater degree than decking oils, but they provide greater protection and need recoating less regularly.
You can also use clear film-building finishes. These build a protective layer on the surface of the decking but must be prepared and applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations for a long-lasting result.
Making the right choice
Before choosing what stain, varnish or clear timber finish to use, it’s important to know a little about the timber you will be treating. New timber often contains a lot of tannins and oils — as a general rule, the more tannins there are the darker the appearance of the timber.
Before applying a timber finish, be sure to clean the decking boards of tannins, oils and dirt.
Timber needs protection not just from rain and wind but also the sun’s punishing rays. With this in mind, look for a timber finish containing UV absorbers. Any exterior timber — be it decking, steps, screening or railing — can suffer from the effects of prolonged direct sunlight, leading to colour changes and the possibility of long-term damage.
Timber decks can also become slippery and dangerous when wet, so it’s important to choose a timber finish that increases slip resistance. And if you lean towards the use of environmentally friendly products, you might like to use a water-based product.
Having selected a timber decking finish and cut the boards to the required length, the next step is to seal them, making sure to include the end grains, which are particularly porous. Choose a sealer that is compatible with the finishing coat.
How frequently you will need to reapply finishes will depend on how much exposure to sun and rain your deck gets, and how much traffic. Assuming average conditions, oils should need to be reapplied every nine to 12 months while stains will need to be refreshed every 12 to 18 months. If properly prepared and applied, film-building finishes should last for several years.
Composite wood decking
Caring for composite wood decking is easy. It doesn’t need to be oiled, stained, sealed or painted to keep its colour and appearance. It just needs to be regularly swept or mopped — how often will depend on how quickly leaf litter and organic debris builds up (for example, a deck beneath a tree will need to be swept more frequently) and how often the deck is used, leading to grime and dirt build-up.
As with any type of flooring, stains should be wiped up as soon as possible. If left on the surface of the decking too long, red wine, leaves, grease and oils may start to penetrate the cellulose fibre. A strong solution of detergent and water will remove most stains but if you’re not able to get to the spill/stain immediately, or it has a high fat/oil content, additional measures will be needed.
Futurewood, distributor of CleverDeck composite wood decking, recommends using eucalyptus oil or Intergrain Reviva to lift the stain and then scrubbing the area with a product such as Handy Andy. Of course, before using any cleaning products on your composite wood decking, first check with the decking manufacturer/distributor.
Whether your deck is of natural timber or composite wood, the natural appeal is undeniable. Maintain your deck correctly and it will continue to look good and give you many years of faithful service.