A wooden deck can be an attractive addition to a home offering additional entertaining space during the year’s warmer months. Decks can also be a major investment that with a little care can remain looking good for years.

It doesn’t take much work to keep your wooden deck looking good. According to a University of Kentucky cooperative extension home furnishing specialist, regularly remove dirt, mildew, and tannin (plant) stains to help wood last and look better longer.

Keep debris from collecting in the gaps and joints. This allows the wood to stay dry by exposing it to the sun and air. Otherwise, pressure-treated wood may darken and mildew while other woods may rot and eventually require replacement.

Occasionally sweep or hose foliage and other large debris off your deck. Remember, the longer sticks and decaying leaves sit on the surface, the more chance they have to stain and rot the wood.

Twice a year, lightly scrub your deck using a solution of warm water and a few squirts of liquid dishwashing detergent and a stiff-bristle brush. Check with a home improvement store for a deck brush with a broom handle so you don’t have to do this on your hands and knees. Every two years or so, give your deck a more thorough cleaning. You can use a two-step scrubbing method as outlined in the UK publication, “Hit the Deck! Care and Maintenance of Outside Decks,” or if you’re handy with tools, you can power spray.

Decks take a great deal of abuse from rain, snow, wind and sun. Although you can’t change the weather, you can prolong the life of your deck by applying a finish. Ideally, wooden decks should be refinished in the fall, if needed, and kept clear of snow and ice during the winter.

Before applying a finish, clean the deck’s surface. If the deck has previously been finished with a sealer, you will need to sand off any glossiness using a stiff fiber brush and a mild detergent. Otherwise, the wood won’t absorb the finish. Rinse well and allow time to dry.

Time your work to avoid direct sunlight when applying the finish. Don’t apply a finish if rain is expected within 24 hours. Allow enough time to complete the job, based upon your basic mechanical skills and speed. For an 8-foot by 10-foot deck, time estimates range from four hours for an experienced person to eight hours for a beginner.

You have two choices for penetrating materials for finishes; sealers and stains. Sealers are transparent unless you buy a pigmented sealer. They prevent wood from absorbing water and delay the effects of weathering. Select one with a mildewcide to prevent mildew and rot. Stains both color and seal the wood. They’re useful for covering up the green tinge of pressure-treated lumber. Semi-transparent stains tint the wood but allow the wood grain to show. Solid-color stains can be as opaque as paint.

You have options for applying the finish. A paint brush will take longer than either a standard roller or an airless sprayer. However, a brush is easier for some people. Many professionals use an airless sprayer. Although it’s fast and easy to use, be sure to protect the siding of the house and the ground underneath in case of overspray. Also, choose a day with little or no breeze. It’s wise to start by spraying the understructure of the deck first. This gives you a chance to learn the technique before doing the more conspicuous upper side.

MARSHA O. PARKER is the Christian County extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 270-886-6328.

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