The kids are back in school, summer grilling and outdoor lounging is over, and in most spots across the U.S. it’s just too chilly or wet to cavort on the backyard deck much longer. We are all familiar with the importance of preparing our home’s gardening areas for winter so we can hit the ground running with a beautiful yard and garden in the spring. Whether it’s trimming, pruning or mulching, there are a number of things that can be done in the fall and winter that virtually guarantee a more successful landscape come spring.
The same can be said of one of your biggest backyard asset – the wood deck. With the arrival of fall and cold weather, it is essential to keep your deck protected through the dormant months. Decks, after all, are a valuable outdoor addition well worth protecting.
“Most people think of landscaping tasks, but deck maintenance is equally as important. Investing just a small amount of time before the worst of winter weather hits can make all the difference in how your deck will look and perform as the temperature fluctuates,” explained Jack Draper, Director of the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association.
Western Red Cedar decks are loved for their all-natural charm and beauty, and many homeowners are familiar with the regular maintenance needed to keep wood decks looking their best. Even decks made of Western Red Cedar, one of the best performing wood species for outdoor applications, need occasional maintenance to keep them in top shape. Regular deck upkeep enables a cedar deck to last for years, even decades.
To make your spring deck maintenance easier, the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association (WRCLA) recommends these simple tasks right now:
Remove Dirt and Debris
Sweep away all leaves, needles and branches from your deck and remove all debris from between deck boards. Dirt and leaves can build up, causing standing water or other moisture to stay on top of the deck rather than drain through. Proper ventilation is crucial to avoiding moisture build up.
Mildew should be removed from a deck soon after it appears. Allowing it to grow untreated, even in the winter, can lead to additional deck damage. There are a number of commercial products that can be purchased at any home center or retail lumberyard. The WRCLA suggests killing and removing mildew with a simple solution made from items you have in your home right now.
Using a common garden sprayer, combine 3 quarts of water, 1 quart of oxygen bleach and ¼ cup of ammonia-free liquid dishwasher detergent within the spray canister. Apply the solution liberally to the deck surface and allow the mixture to set for about 10-15 minutes. The bleach will kill the mildew and the dishwasher detergent helps emulsify the mildew to aid in its removal. Liquid dishwasher detergent works better than regular dish or laundry detergent because it will not foam.
After allowing the solution to set, simply rinse the surface clean. For tougher mildew stains, apply the solution with a soft bristle brush.
Pots and Planters
Setting planters and pots directly on a deck’s surface may cause staining. Consider removing planters from the deck or moving them around on a regular basis to decrease the effects.
Or, place planters onto a 2” x 2” cedar board to create space between the deck and planters. Cedar has natural compounds that form a resistance to deterioration, rot and decay—it is these same compounds that give cedar it’s unique fragrance—and the extra space created by the cedar will allow moisture to evaporate and promote a healthy deck.
If shoveling snow off your deck, run the shovel lengthwise on the deck boards. Shoveling cross-wise can scratch or cut in to the wood. Consider using a plastic shovel to decrease scratching and avoid salt or other ice melters, they may discolor or damage some deck finishes.
Planning for the Spring
With some initial maintenance and repairs already taken care of, you will have more time to tackle other projects once the weather improves. Maybe this is the year to consider adding a cedar trellis, gazebo, pergola or other outdoor structure.