2/14/2013 9:59:00 PM Ask the contractor: Clean, seal decks annually to avoid rot
Sandy Griffis Yavapai County Contractors Association
Q: We recently purchased a lightly used home with all components intact with the exception of the wooden deck. How should we go about repairing it?-Ed and Nancy, Prescott Valley
A: Aging deck structures whose maintenance and care have been neglected can certainly create issues for backyard enjoyment. We do have harsh weather in our area that can contribute to deck erosion issues. We talked with Fergul Moloney of Moloney Construction and Russ Lambrecht of JAGR Custom Homes and they gave some pointers to tell if your deck needs help.
Check the deck boards for softness, cracking and rot.
Take a look at the posts and beams that provide the support for the deck. Do you see any sagging?
Visually inspect all of the hardware connections - do you see any bolts or screws that might be loose, backing out or rusting?
It is easy to pound loose nails back in, but a better solution would be to pull the loose nails out and use a deck screw or longer nail. Something to keep in mind, according to both Fergul and Russ, is that if a nail is not loose but slightly protruding, it is better to pound it back in versus pulling it out.
Look at the foundation and footing piers. Do you see any sinking?
If your deck has stairs or handrails, check for rot and lack of stability. Make sure these areas are not wobbly or loose. It is critically important to maintain the structural integrity of a deck. If you find small areas of rot that can be easily removed, you can fill and patch these areas with a good quality wood preservative.
Decks are a relatively good investment for a yard and provide a good return on the original cost, so it is important to ensure good upkeep and maintenance. Decks require annual maintenance to provide longevity. A good course of annual maintenance should include cleaning and sealing.
Washing the deck
One sure sign a deck needs to be cleaned is the appearance of mold and dirt. Left unchecked, they will cause rot. All debris should be removed from between the deck boards. There is a variety of deck cleaners on the market, or you can make your own half-bleach, half-water solution. It is best to clean your deck on a cool and somewhat cloudy day so the cleaning material does not evaporate.
Once you clean the deck, then you should clean the stairs and any handrails. Always clean from bottom up; this way any splatters will fall on the wet surface and will not leave any marks.
If you are cleaning a composite deck, it is important to make sure you use the correct cleaning solution for the material. In talking with our local lumber stores, they highly recommend that you do not clean composite decks with a pressure washer as this can permanently damage the decking material and void your warranty.
Sealing the deck
It may or may not be obvious if your deck needs sealing. If you are unsure, toss some water on the deck. If the water beads up, that is a good sign. If the water soaks in, then you should reseal the deck after washing it. Decks should be resealed no less than two days after you have washed the deck. There are many sealers on the market and many color options such as clear sealers, semi-transparent stains and solid stains; which to choose is a matter of personal preference.
It can be an arduous process to maintain, clean and seal a deck. You may want to leave it up to the professionals and then enjoy your deck in a nice lounge chair with music and chicken on the barbie.
Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.ycca.org.