The excitement of next Spring’s thaw might be spoiled by the sight of winter deck damage if proper measures to protect your wooden deck aren’t taken. There are several things you can do to “winterize” your wooden deck to protect it from the season’s harsh elements.
The first thing you’ll want to do is sweep away any debris such as leaves, pine needles, branches, etc. You may also consider trimming back certain plants to prevent debris build-up in the first place.
Also, be aware of anything that traps moisture, like potted plants. These large planters pots have holes in the bottom to drain excess water. This is bad news for a wooden deck because the water will get trapped in between the deck and the pot causing mildew, mold, and possibly rot. We suggest elevating these pots using wood that has a naturally greater resistance to moisture – such as cedar – or periodically moving the pots.
Washing Your Deck
The next thing you’ll want to do is clean your deck using an oxygen-based bleach solution to remove stains and mildew. You can purchase something from a store, or make the solution yourself. There are many suggestions online for both store-bought solutions and make-it-yourself versions.
One solution you can make yourself is:
- 3 quarts of water
- 1 quart of oxygen bleach (for example, Oxyclean)
- ¼ cup ammonia-free liquid dishwashing detergent
Spray this on your deck, and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing it off with the hose.
Staining and Sealing
To protect your deck, choose a water-repellent sealer or stain. Depending on the condition of the stain or sealer that is currently on your deck, you might choose to strip the deck before re-sealing/staining.
Re-sealing or –staining the deck is one of the most important things you can do to protect your deck during the winter. An unprotected deck can crack and warp if moisture – snow or rain – gets into small cracks in the deck and freezes.
There’s a belief that snow needs to be removed or the weight of it will cause your deck to warp. The answer is, yes and no. If your deck was properly built and well maintained, thus structurally sound, it can support the weight of snow.
If you do need to remove snow to create a pathway or something, try using a broom first. This will be the least harsh option. Granted, sometimes snow is too heavy, in which case a shovel is necessary. When this is the case, do these two things:
- Use a plastic shovel, which is not has harsh on the wood as a metal shovel.
- Shovel parallel to the boards rather than perpendicular so that the shovel does catch and gouge the planks.
If you need to remove ice, try to avoid salts and other chemicals because these can discolor and ruin the sealant or stain protecting your deck. If you need to use something to melt ice, try using something that is pet safe.
Lastly, chippers are one of the worst tools you can use to remove ice. Chippers can damage the surface of your deck by leaving dents in it. They can also exacerbate any cracks currently in your deck.
Wooden decks require a lot of maintenance – maintenance that requires time, labor, and money. If maintaining your deck is becoming too much of a hassle, a deck made of an alternative material might be the solution.
Trex decking is a well-known alternative deck material. It doesn’t require re-painting or –staining. It doesn’t splinter or rot, and the surface is easy to clean. You can read more about Trex decking on our website.