5 Ways to Ruin Your Deck

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Mitchell

Mike Mitchell is an award-winning deck builder and designer who specializes in urban decking, transforming cityscapes with his creative constructions. He is a second-generation deck builder.

Table of Contents

Your backyard deck is one of the best places in your home to relax and unwind or have a little fun with friends and family. Regular deck maintenance will help keep your deck in top shape and protect your investment. Still, to make sure you get the longest life from your deck and enjoy the beauty of the space for longer, make sure to avoid these five surefire ways to ruin your deck.

1. Rusty Furniture

Wood, wicker, and aluminum furniture are ideal for outdoor spaces for a variety of reasons, but today we’re looking at rust. Wrought iron and steel fixtures might have the right aesthetic and are often built to last, but this type of furniture does not do well with moisture. Once the finish or paint starts to wear, continued exposure to the elements will allow rust to set in, and this rust can transfer to your deck.

If your decking is made from a composite material like Trex, it’s possible to scrub rust stains from the surface using soapy water and a soft or medium bristled brush. Wood decking is often more tricky and large, set-in stains may have to be sanded off.

2. Yard Waste Buildup

A few stray leaves are usually not a problem, but a considerable accumulation of old leaves, grass, and other organic material can lead to big problems. As these clippings remain in damp piles, they will start to decay, and this process can leave dark, unsightly stains on your deck. Plus, wet leaves are very slippery and can pose a serious hazard while small rodents and insects make a cozy home inside the piles.

If your deck is made from natural wood, this decaying process can extend to the decking itself as bacteria, mold, and fungus work their way through the wood. Avoid this problem by regularly sweeping your deck, especially once all the fall foliage has made its way to the ground. Most lighter stains can be scrubbed away with soapy water and a soft-bristled brush. Composite decking can usually have these stains scrubbed away using a solution of vinegar and water and adding a bit of baking soda for problem areas.

3. Potted Plants

Pretty flowers and potted vegetables are always a welcome addition to your deck, provided you’re using appropriately sized saucers and trays! These protective plates are meant to collect excess water and seeping soil to prevent them from making contact with your deck’s surface.

Without trays or saucers, water and soil will work their way onto your deck and will eventually contribute to the growth of moss and mold, which will lead to rotting boards on a natural wood deck and stains on a composite surface.

4. Cleaning With Bleach

With all this talk about stains on your deck, it can be tempting to reach for the bleach to get some of the worst offenders out of sight. The problem is that bleach can lead to discoloration of surfaces, streaking of finishes and stains, and will injure nearby plants and grass once it’s rinsed off.

On composite decking, bleach can cause the materials to eat away at the composite surface and leave permanent discoloration and long-term damage that can only be remedied by replacing the boards. No matter which type of decking you have, bleach will corrode metal fasteners such as nails and screws and could lead to structural problems.

5. Improper Pressure Washing

Pressure washing can be an addictive hobby as you wield your weapon of cleaning to remove dirt, grime, and other unsightly stains. An annual washing is often a recommended step for regular deck maintenance, but a pressure washer must be used properly to be effective. First, you must check with the manufacturer of your decking material to determine the proper pressure to use. Most recommend a maximum pressure of 3100 PSI and keeping the tip at least eight inches from the surface, along with the use of a fan tip to disperse the pressure evenly.

Most composite decking will not require a pressure washer for a thorough cleaning, and improper pressure washing can lead to scratching, splintering, and other problems. A natural wood deck can be scarred, gashed, and marked by too much pressure. Always start with a simple garden hose; often, that’s more than enough pressure to get the job done.

Bonus: Don’t Skip Routine Maintenance!

Annual deck maintenance is a critical component of a long-lasting deck. Be sure to visibly inspect the surface and all structural pieces for signs of damage or deterioration, sweep and wash your deck, and apply stains and sealants when appropriate for your decking material. If you see signs of trouble or you’re not ready to tackle the annual maintenance yourself, contact a deck repair specialist. They’ll have have the tools and experience to keep your deck looking great for years to come.