Making the Most of The Outdoors: Decks

With spring approaching, many of us are dying to get outdoors, some of us are itching to refinish our wooden decks and others of us are resisting the urge to rush out and plant our seeds too early!

Decks usually need re-finishing every three years or so, and it will soon be dry enough to make a start. Preparation of decking (or any exterior wood) is very important. Wood is more prone to difficulties than other materials are and it must be well protected from the elements, particularly direct sunlight and heavy rain.

Decks cannot be finished until the weather is quite dry; this is because the deck wood needs to be completely dried out before applying sealers etc.

If you decide to re finish your deck, you will need to do it in two stages; first there is the stripping and cleaning and then there is the finish – either paint or stain. All decks need to have water repellant and preservative applied to them, preferably not by spray but by hand painting. Even redwood and cedar need a water repellant.

Common problems include flaking paint, mold and discoloration, usually from exposure to the elements.If you find isolated patches of flaking paint you can scrape and sand it off and simply re-prime it then paint it over.

Mold will usually indicate moisture from somewhere, so check your down pipes or see if your gutters are full of leaves. This can be remedied by washing the wood with a fungicide and then once you are sure it has been rinsed off and dried properly, apply primer and paint.

In some cases there may be mold or rotting wood from termites, in which case cut the wood, burn it and replace. Keeping the paint jobs up to date is often a deterrent for termites. Bare wood soon turns gray but the color may be able to be brought back with wood cleaner and then you can apply a natural finish.

Bad cracks need to be filled with filler that has some flexibility before priming the area and repainting. When you apply stripper, roll the stripper onto the deck (water based stripper will not harm plants) and force yourself to wait 20 minutes.

Use a garden hose to wash off or a power washer. (Note: if you use a power washer you may have to sand the wood afterwards to get rid of the fuzzy effect from the friction of the washer.) After two or three days to let it dry you can finish off the prep.

If you are using paint, the higher the price – the better the quality, the words premium or quality may be an indicator. Of course, you will pay more, but how long does it take you to paint a deck? Maybe you will save yourself extra labor time if you do not have to repaint it for five years instead of three. Look for water repellant qualities and UV blockers.

Some painters recommend two coats of primer sealer and one of top coat and some recommend two coats of top coat and one of primer! It would seem that one or the other of the paints better have two coats! Using a quick drying self priming alkyd paint is ideal.

If you want to go with staining, a stain that is heavy bodied will show up the grain but not the texture, whereas lighter bodied will still show the texture. Coat the stain with a sealer once it is dry, one that says it is ‘non chalking’ to avoid your finish being rubbed off with wear.

A protective finish will make your work last longer no matter which effect you are going for. If the deck is new remember to let it weather for a month or two so that it will better absorb the stain; also seal any knots in the wood before you primer.