From cleaning tips to applying finishes, here's what to do when your outdoor space is showing signs of wear and tear.

By Caroline Biggs
June 18, 2020
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No matter how beautiful your deck may have been when you first installed it, over time, outdoor elements and normal wear and tear can weaken it to the point of disrepair. "There are a few signs to look out for when your deck needs to be repaired or restored," explains James K. Schwartz, owner of JK Schwartz, Inc., a power washing and wood restoration company. "One sign is flaking or peeling, and another is the presence of rotting wood or mold and mildew." Fortunately, with the right techniques, you can restore your deck to its original integrity in no time. "Most decks need cleaning and maintenance at least once a year," Geoff Case, a merchant for pressure-treated lumber and decking at The Home Depot explains. "A pressure washer can be a great tool to speed up the deck cleaning process. If it has been a while since the deck was sealed, and water no longer beads up on the surface, it may also be time to reapply deck sealer."

Looking for more tips on how to bring your worn-down deck back to life in time for the warm weather season? We asked a few wood restoration experts for advice, and here's what they had to share.

Erase the damage.

The first step to restoring your deck is to scrape down any signs of damage. "Remove loose paint or opaque deck stain with a paint scraper," Case says. "Scrape down damaged areas to bare wood and sand each area to feather the edges of remaining finish material down to bare wood. Lastly, scrub the surface using a stiff bristle brush to remove flaking stains or dirt—just don't use a metal bristle brush on cedar or redwood because the metal bristles may scar the soft wood."

Lighten and brighten.

Nothing brightens up a dingy deck faster than a pressure wash cleaning. Case recommends pretreating your deck with a liquid wood cleaner, like Behr Premium All-In-One Wood and Deck Cleaner ($10, homedepot.com) before giving it a thorough power wash. "Use a pressure washer with a fan spray nozzle for a deeper cleaning," Case says. "Also, only use the low power setting to avoid damaging the wood."

Apply finish.

Once the deck is completely dry, you'll want to apply a water-repellent protective finish or stain to ensure your wood stays looking bright and clean for longer. "Using a good quality brush, apply stain to small sections (one to three boards) at a time; starting at one edge and following through to the end of the boards to avoid lap marks," says Vageesh Bakhshi, senior product marketing manager at Cabot. "Avoid applying stains in direct sunlight, or when rain is expected within the next 24 hours."

Back-brush after spraying.

If you use a sprayer to apply a clear protective finish, Case recommends using a roller to help force the finish into the wood and to spread out any pooled liquid. Then, he says you'll need to employ the method of back-brushing to remove any unsightly leftover drips. "Use a brush to work the finish into the end grain, seams and gaps between boards of your deck," he says. "Should the end grain soak up most of the finish, you may need to apply more."

Maintenance matters.

According to our experts, the best thing you can do to lengthen the life of your deck is to give it some maintenance on a consistent basis. "Be sure to sweep and clean your deck at least once a week to extend the life of the deck," Case says. "Power washing is also a great tool to use in order to remove deck stains, mildew and grime that starts accumulating over time."

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