It really doesn’t matter what part of the country you live in, this has been a rough winter on your backyard, especially if you have a wood deck.
Trees have split because of the extreme up and down in temperatures, often happening overnight. Perennials have been frozen, thawed, wind-swept and then buried under large snow banks. Even our usable spaces have taken a hit this year with patios shifting and heaving due to water freezing underneath them.
The one area though that may need the most help is your wood deck. Wood breaks down faster when exposed to the elements and this year, any outdoor wood has been exposed to a lot of different elements!
Many homeowners, cottage owners and even some builders get it wrong when it comes to caring for your outdoor wood.
Properly cared for, a well-built wooden deck can last 25 to 40 years. With no care, many experts say a deck will begin to break down in as little as seven years and need to be replaced in 10.
Those are some scary numbers considering how much wood people use in their backyards for decks, fences, and even pergolas.
To get more life out of your wood deck, avoid these big mistakes people make when caring for theirs:
Take the pressure off
We use a pressure washer as an easy way to remove dirt and grime from our wood surfaces every spring. This is harmful to the wood because the process breaks down the protective wood fibres and gouges the grains, which allows water to puddle and speed up the decaying process.
Instead, use products that are designed specifically for removing grime and even mildew safely from wood surfaces. While you’re at it, choose products that are safe for the environment so that the runoff doesn’t end up in your gardens or our water sources.
Put the stain on
Much of the country (myself included) has moved away from using green pressure-treated wood. Instead, deck builders are using rich brown treated wood as their preferred material.
I love the dark warm colour, but don’t be fooled: all woods need to be protected from the UV rays of the spring and summer sun. Any wood that gets sun will fade over time, even a pre-stained one.
Once a wood surface is dry to the touch, it should be protected with a water repellant to prevent fading, checking or splitting from water or UV damage.
Seal the ends
End cuts need to be sealed. I am guilty of this one. Anytime I cut a piece of lumber for a deck or a railing, I should be sealing the end of the wood with a product specifically designed to protect the exposed wood.
This type of sealant is different from a stain or a UV protector. It is specially designed to help maintain the structural integrity of the wood.
This is extremely important if you consider how decks and railings are constructed. If the support beams and posts slowly break down due to the elements getting access to unprotected wood, the strength of the wood is compromised, creating an unsafe situation.
Think about the elements this spring when planning your backyard or cottage cleanup. We all want to be outside for as many nice days as possible; let’s just make sure we are protecting our family, friends and our outdoor investments.
Originally published March 19, 2018