Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2002

Get the deck ready for summer fun

April 28, 2002


Well, it's getting to be that time of year again the snow is long gone, the flowers are starting to spring up and folks are in line at the butcher's counter at the grocery store loading up on steaks and burgers for the grill.

Are you planning on dragging out the outdoor furniture this weekend and getting the deck set up for summer? Before stepping on that deck, give it a good look. How long has it been since you did a little maintenance on it? When was the last time you stained your deck?

Deck cleaner can remove surface and ground-in dirt from a dingy
deck. Use stencils to add decorative details.

Deck cleaner can remove surface and ground-in dirt from a dingy deck. Use stencils to add decorative details.

Let's take a few minutes to review some of the things to consider to bring that deck back to life.

We all are under the impression that our decks will last forever; isn't that what pressure-treated lumber is all about? Well, folks, wood is wood.

Even though pressure-treated lumber resists insects and decay, it's still vulnerable to moisture and the sun's rays. This includes other exterior woods like cedar and redwood. To keep it looking new and lasting longer, regular maintenance is necessary.

If your deck is older and starting to look a little gray (who isn't?), a deck cleaner can give it a fresher look. Deck cleaners come in bleach and nonbleach formulas. Either can remove surface and ground-in dirt. Bleach cleaners lighten the wood, while nonbleach ones gently remove dirt and grime without damaging the wood fibers or the wood's natural color. Nonbleach cleaners are also friendlier to the environment and not as tough on bushes and plants.

To use a deck cleaner, always read the label; manufacturers do a lot of product tests and really know the best way to use the product.

Start by sweeping away all the leaves and other debris. Gently wash down the deck and the surrounding bushes and grass with a garden hose. Mix up a batch of cleaner (did you read that label?). If the wood is extremely dirty, use less water, especially for decks that have been neglected for a long time.

Using a roller, sprayer or a bucket and brush, apply the cleaner. Just remember to wear gloves to protect your hands. To help the cleaner work better, keep the deck wet while working. Let the cleaner set for 15 to 20 minutes this gives the cleaner time to work on stains and grime then give the deck a good rinsing.

Now you're ready to apply a clear wood preservative or an exterior stain. Clear wood preservatives contain an UV protector, which will bring new life to the surface while protecting it from the elements. Clear wood preservatives leave the deck with a clear finish; it will not give any color to the deck.

If you want to add color, use an exterior stain. You can choose from a solid or a semi-transparent. Deep-penetrating formulas are great for repelling water. Exterior stains are available as water-based or oil-based products.

To apply a preservative or stain, make sure you have cleaned the deck. Allow the deck to dry for two days after cleaning. Again, read the manufacturer's directions and wear eye protection and gloves.

Cover the surrounding areas with a cloth tarp. (I never use plastic, because it doesn't breathe and could damage plant life.) Then apply the wood finish with a roller or brush. Let the product set for about 20 minutes so that it will penetrate the wood. Then go back over the surface with a brush, which will give it a more consistent finish.

Brush out any puddles to avoid shiny patches. I always apply a double coat for good coverage and protection. Then allow the stain or preservative to dry one to two days. Be sure to dispose of old rags and empty containers properly.

Now before you start dragging the furniture onto the deck, take a moment and add one more interesting detail. Stencil on a pattern, like a leaf or a spring flower. Just use a little exterior solid-color stain or exterior paint and dab a little color on using a stencil brush and a stencil to give the deck a little pizzazz.

I had to add this last detail because my colleague, Shari Hiller, wanted me to. Believe me, I would have much rather spent my time in line picking out a nice T-bone.

Matt Fox writes this column with Shari Hiller. They also co-host the Home & Garden Television show "Room by Room." For more information, visit

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