Deck Maintenance 101

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

Whether you’ve just completed a new deck installation or moved into a home with a deck that you’re not sure how to care for, it’s time to learn the basics of deck maintenance. Keeping up with this task is the best way to ensure a long life for your outdoor space, and to make sure it looks beautiful and is always ready for you to relax and enjoy.

Visual Inspection

This is the first and possibly the most important step and should be done at least once per year. Most people perform this task once winter has passed and the weather starts warming up, and it’s not a bad idea to give it another look before closing up for the cold months. Make sure to remove any leaves, debris, and trash so you can inspect the entire structure.

A visual inspection is as simple as it sounds: take a walk around your deck and check for any signs of damage or deterioration. Some things to look for include loose or split boards, rotting wood, and protruding screws or nails. Some other less-obvious signs of trouble include bubbled or peeling paint or stain and loose or rusted fasteners.

If you spot any signs of trouble, be sure to contact a deck repair specialist as soon as possible. Small problems can become major headaches over time, and you’ll save yourself time and money by making repairs before issues start to spread.

Spring Cleaning

The next step is to thoroughly wash your deck. You’ll need to know what material your deck is built from before choosing a process as natural wood will have different needs than a composite material.

If you’re cleaning a wood deck, choose a cleaning solution that’s made for your surface. You can scrub your deck by hand using a broom, taking care to scrub gently before rinsing away the solution with water. A pressure washer can also be used for this process but be careful not to use too much pressure as you can gouge the wood or cause other damage.

Trex deck builders recommend cleaning your composite deck twice per year using a cleaning solution made for composite decking. Gentle pressure washing is also advised, but be sure to stay under 3100 psi and use the fan attachment at least eight inches from the surface to avoid applying too much pressure in a centralized location. If your composite deck is more than 15 years old, you check with the product manufacturer to ensure that pressure washing is recommended as some early generation products may become damaged.

Stain & Seal

If your deck is made from composite material, your Trex deck builders have great news: you can skip this step! There may be some exceptions for older composite decking (more than approximately 15 years old), so check the specific recommendations for the materials used for your deck.

For those with wood decking, this part of the process is critical for maintaining a long life for your lumber. While some people may opt for paint, stain tends to be more common as it’s more durable and easier to reapply when necessary. To preserve the natural wood appearance, a clear or lightly pigmented stain is the right choice. Heavier pigments may not last as long before showing signs of wear. It’s also helpful to choose a stain that is both waterproof (not just water-resistant) and provides UV protection. Decks usually need to be stained every two or three years, depending on weather conditions and use.

Sealing is an important final step to protect the stain you’ve applied and provide added safeguards for your wood products. Sealants often need to be applied every year, whether it’s time to stain or not. To check and see if yours is ready for a new coat of sealant, sprinkle a few drops of water to see if it still beads up or if the water is absorbing into the wood.

Tips & Tricks

Rule number one when getting ready to tackle your deck maintenance checklist is to look at the forecast, especially if it is time to apply stains and sealants. First, a freshly washed deck should dry for at least two days before applying any product. Plus, stains and sealants typically need at least two full days to dry completely before being exposed to rain and harsh weather.

It’s also important to periodically clean your deck throughout the year to prevent stains and moisture problems from accumulating leaves, grass, and other debris. These cleanings don’t have to take long; picking up large pieces and hosing off the rest is sufficient.

Lastly, be sure to protect your landscaping when maintaining your deck, especially if you’re applying any products. Plants can be sensitive to soaps and cleaning solutions, and most stains and sealants are bad news for your greenery. A plastic drop cloth or tarp is a simple way to keep them protected, but be sure to drape them loosely so air can still flow.

When to Call a Pro

If your wooden deck is ready for a thorough cleaning, sanding, and refinishing, you may want to hire a professional team to tackle the big job. While the process is certainly manageable for homeowners, professionals have the tools, experience, and teamwork to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Whether you see signs of damage or not, it’s critical to have your deck professionally inspected every two to three years to not only spot the things you may have missed, but also to ensure the structural integrity of the deck, railing, support structures, and other safety features.

To learn more about maintaining your outdoor spaces for a long and beautiful life, contact the Trex deck builders at Mitchell Construction today!


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