As the last days of summer slip away, the last thing you want to contemplate is the arrival of another winter. But now is the time to look into preparing those exposed areas of your house for the colder months ahead. And “winterizing” your deck or decks needs to be at the top of your list (or close to the top at least). Here are some things to take into consideration:
Weathered gray wood, rust spots and stains from mildew, moss, and algae can ruin the looks of your deck. Even newly built decks require cleaning to remove invisible surface barriers and prevent the adhesions of stains and sealers. Simply sweeping and clearing away debris helps prevent mildew, fungus and algae growth. A further rinsing with a garden hose will remove dirt and grime. More stubborn buildup can be removed by scrubbing the deck with a nonferrous bristle brush and a solution of warm water and a mild detergent.
Once winter has arrived, along with snow and ice, remember some basic facts to protect your deck.
• Don’t shovel your deck to protect the wood. That’s why you built your deck of rot proof wood.
• Don’t shovel your deck to protect the synthetic decking. The plastic in these decks is impervious to snow. Cold winter temperatures may shrink plastic, but it expands back once warmer temperatures return.
When you decide to clear that snow from your deck, what is the best method?
Here are some TIPS:
• Before it snows, make sure there are no nails or screws protruding from the flooring; these can catch a shovel or a foot.
• The best way to clear snow is with a broom. It works well if the snow is light and only a few inches deep. You can sweep it under the rails and more importantly, the broom will not scrape, scratch or gouge your deck.
• If you have only a couple of inches of truly light snow, you can clear a path with a leaf blower.
• When the snow is deep – over four inches – you’ll need a shovel. Make sure you use a plastic shovel with a plastic blade. A metal blade can easily scratch or gouge your deck. Be especially gentle if your deck is cedar or redwood. They are soft woods and most vulnerable to damage. Hard woods like ipe and mahogany will fare better, but all wood is vulnerable. Composite or PVC decking also needs care. While those products are scratch resistant, they are not scratch proof.
• Shovel parallel to the deck boards, not across (perpendicular to) the deck boards. Otherwise the front edge of your shovel will likely catch the edge of the deck board and cause damage.
• Never chop ice on your deck, even with a plastic shovel. You’re guaranteed to also chop your deck. See your manufacturer’s recommendations for chemical remedies that are safe for your particular deck.
Taking the proper steps to maintain and protect your deck throughout the winter season will keep your decks looking great for years to come!