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How to Clean and Seal a Deck

Does your wooden deck look worn out? Maybe the finish is chipping, faded, or plum worn off in high traffic areas. Decks take a beating from the weather throughout the year, but with the proper restorative care, your deck can breathe new life. It will require time and patience, but it's entirely possible to complete a DIY restoration project on your deck. The steps below outline how to refurbish your deck.

Cleaning & sealing your deck

Before you begin washing, take a look around the deck for raised nails. If the nails are sticking up out of the wood, causing a tripping hazard, you can hammer them back down, or reset them, using a drift pin (aka punch) so you don't leave hammer marks in the wood. The nails rise up from the wood over time due to the planks getting wet then drying repeatedly.

  1. Cleaning

    Use a power washer to clear debris and even loose finish from the boards. While running the power washer, it's important to keep the nozzle 6-8" away from the boards and to keep it constantly moving so you're merely cleaning and don't cause damage to the wood. This is a gratifying step, as you'll be able to see improvement immediately. For a deeper cleaning to remove additional residue, you can apply a deck cleaner and brightener as well.

    If you find that the grain of the wood has been raised during the washing (which is likely), you can certainly add in a round of sanding at this point. Sanding will give the deck a smooth finish and help prevent splinters when touching the railings. Using a hand-held power sander will do the trick, but it will take time.

  2. Sealing

    To waterproof the deck and help it last longer, it needs to be sealed. Before you start the sealing process, run a quick test to be sure your deck needs to be sealed. To test, splash water on the deck. If the water soaks into the wood then the deck needs to be sealed, but if instead the water beads up on the surface of the wood sealing isn't necessary.

    If you need to seal, you'll need to wait roughly 48 hours after washing the deck before applying the liquid sealer. Though, if the weather is humid or on the cooler side, it's safer to wait closer to 72 hours to ensure the deck has had sufficient time to dry.

    The seal can be applied with a foam pad or a roller. Be sure you don't allow puddles to form. Act quickly after applying (or have a 2nd person follow you) and brush away pools of sealant with a broom.

    Protect plants and grass surrounding the deck

    Before you begin applying the sealer, spray water over the grass, shrubs, and plants near your deck and even cover them in plastic. This will keep the plants from getting spots from the chemicals. A plastic cover helps protect the grass and plants if you stain the deck as well.

Staining vs. Painting

Choosing a stain or paint for your deck is mostly up to your personal preference, but there are some factors to consider. If you prefer to see the natural grain of the wood planks then stain is for you. However, paint can protect the wood better than stain because it is a thicker material. Paint resists rot, mold, and sun damage more effectively than stain and it can help hide or camouflage imperfections in the wood. Also, paint has more color options than stain, allowing you to select any color you'd like. Be aware that a painted deck can be slick when wet, however.

Ready to get started? If this sounds like more time and effort than you're prepared for, check out the selection of local deck cleaner and painters available through HomePro Match.

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