What Do I Need To Know About Cleaning My Deck? 

Spring cleaning is not only for the inside of your home; it is necessary for the outside of your home, as well.  The mild days of the season provide the perfect weather to clean and prepare your deck for entertaining, or just relaxing with family. 

Over time, dirt, mildew and algae growth can build up on the surface of your deck, especially if it has been a few years since you last cleaned it.  More so than rain, snow or extreme temperatures, UV rays from the sun harm and distress the decking materials.  Routine cleaning, and treating the surfaces of your deck will extend its life and provide long lasting beauty.  Although you do not have to power wash your deck every year, it is suggested that you create some sort of annual cleaning regimen.

If you decide to take on this task yourself, it is important for you to do your homework about the type of decking materials you are working with.  You may have natural wood, like cedar or redwood, or pressure treated wood, or a composite deck.  Each type of deck requires a different processes to clean and restore its appearance.

Natural woods decks are the most demanding, requiring annual cleaning, and application of a new finish.  Pressure treated wood requires cleaning about every two to three years, but also needs the application of a new finish afterward.  Composite material decks do not require refinishing, but the materials are prone to mold and mildew and should be cleaned at least every few years.

Many homeowners think that a power washer is the easiest way to clean their deck.  Although this process is quicker than cleaning your deck with a brush and good cleaning solution, a power washer can be harmful to your deck.  Improper use of a power washer can cause etching in your deck surface, or even worse, cause your deck to splinter.  It is important that you follow the instructions of the equipment, prior to its use and practice on an area that is inconspicuou or, use a professional.

If you choose to power wash your deck, you should keep the nozzle at least 12 to 18 inches away from the surface, and work systematically.  Your strokes should be even and go from one end of the board to the other so that there are no patchy areas.  Because a power washer uses only water, it is harmless to any surrounding vegetation or pets.

If using a power washer on a wooden deck, be prepared to remove all of the old finish and stain down to the bare wood, and then once completely dry, re-stain it.  Power washing your deck, and not re-staining it, will cause worse damage to the wood than if you never power washed it at all.  When applying the new stain, make sure you select a semi-transparent stain that sinks deep in to the wood.  A solid color stain is more like paint and is more apt to peel.  For a more natural stained look, a good heavy oil-based stain will provide a longer wear than a water-based product. 

With any type of stain, it is important that you consult with a professional and do your homework before applying it.  Consult with your local paint store professional on the types of stain available on the market, as well as the types of applicators you should use.  Your results will vary based on the products you use, but most of the time the best way to apply a finish is with a brush to allow for complete coverage.

If power washing is outside your realm of comfort, or if you have a composite deck, consider using a non-toxic cleaner, like oxygen bleach and a deck brush.  The oxygen bubbles in the solution do most of the work, and soak into the dry wood.  The oxygen ions deep clean the wood by breaking apart dirt, algae and mildew molecules.  You can then rinse off the deck with your hose.  Although this is an effective way to clean your deck, it will take more time and effort than a power washer.

In some cases, sanding your wooden deck may be a better alternative than power washing because it flattens and smooths weathered boards, while removing the old finish.  If your deck is larger than 100 square feet, you could rent an orbital sander to complete the task. If you've never used a sander before, you may want to consider hiring a professional that does this full time so that no damage is done by over-sanding it. 

As with any home improvement task, it is important that you know the facts before you start.  If you are unsure about the particular skills needed for your project, speak to a professional. They should be able to discuss your particular job, and provide you with their feedback and an estimate, if needed.

John Amabile, Owner  -  A&J Powerwashing and More

(917) 939-9195    johnpowerwashing@aol.com