How To: Winterizing A Deck
Harsh winter weather with rain, ice, snow and biting cold wind can be hard on wooden decks, leaving them looking old and worn out before their time. If you want your deck to look as good as new next spring, take a few steps to protect it through the winter months.
Put Away Your Clutter
The first step in winterizing your deck is to clear the space. Be sure to:
- Store planters elsewhere: Even if they’re heavy, moving your planters out of the way for the winter is worth it to protect your wood from moisture that could leach into it, leaving stains. Store your planters in your garage or under your deck to prevent ugly rings and box stains on your deck’s floor.
- Move furniture and accessories: Take seat cushions indoors and fold or stack chairs. If possible, store furniture in garage or under deck. Otherwise, stack furniture neatly in a corner.
Swab the Deck!
The next step to properly winterize your deck is to give it a good cleaning. After a season of fun, chances are your deck has accumulated its share of ground-in dirt and stains from barbeque spills, detracting from the deck’s appearance and degrading the wood over time. Decomposing yard debris also puts your deck’s wood at risk. A good washing helps protect your deck by improving ventilation between boards and keeping your deck as dry and clean as possible over the winter. Here are a few basic cleaning tips:
- Use a bleach-free cleaner designed for use on wood.
- Select a cleaner with an easy hose mount so you can just attach it to your garden hose and spray it on.
- Work cleaner in with a scrub broom and rinse.
Addressing Deck Mold and Mildew
The moisture your deck is so frequently exposed to provides the perfect conditions for mold, mildew and algae to grow. Left untreated, these organisms will ruin your deck. Before winter begins, inspect your deck, particularly in the cracks and crevices and treat any small problems you find before they become unmanageable over the winter. To make sure you don’t damage your deck, consult a professional to help you select an appropriate mold removal product and apply it correctly.
Extra Measures to Protect Your Deck
If your deck is in terrific shape, you may not need to do anything further to winterize your deck once you’ve cleaned it up. If it’s starting to show wear, however, it will be all the more vulnerable during harsh winter weather. Here’s what you need to do to get your deck ready for winter if it’s in less than perfect condition:
- How to remove worn finish: In order to refinish your deck, you’ll need to strip away the old finish first. Begin to remove peeling finish using an ordinary paint scraper and then use a stripper solution to lift away the rest. Chose a cool shady day to work as the hot sun causes solutions to evaporate and makes them less effective.
- How to reapply finish: Apply a fresh new finish. You’ve got lots of options for protective stain colors, and some even come with the added benefit of reflecting solar rays to keep your deck cooler in the summer. If you prefer a more natural look, choose a clear water repellent finish that protects without hiding the beauty of your wood.
- Seal in protection: To protect your new finish, you may want to add an extra coat or two of high quality water repellant seal.
- Cover it up: Even the best protective stains and finishes may not be enough during the most extreme weather. If you live in an area with particularly harsh winters, consider covering your deck with a strong, waterproof tarp or other insulating material. Make sure your tarp covers the entire deck area; if water can get under it in any spots this defeats the entire purpose. Additionally, make sure that your tarp doesn’t have any areas where water can pool as this can create mold and mildew issues.
Today’s better finishes and sealers last for years, so once you take on the hard work of refinishing your deck, you won’t have to worry about it for a while. Clearing, washing, stripping and refinishing your deck may seem a bit daunting but will be very much worth the work when you can enjoy your deck summer after summer. If deck maintenance labor is too much for you, consider hiring a professional to help you preserve the beauty and integrity of your deck.