Cleaning, Preserving/Staining/Sealing, Repair & Maintenance
Exterior decks are considered by many to be an extension of their interior living space. They provide additional living space, and comfortable, relaxing sanctuary. Most decks are constructed of #2 pressure treated Southern Pine, but can be of other woods, both hard and soft, and even exotic hardwoods, usually from South America. Increasingly, homeowners are turning to “Composite” materials frequently referred to by the trade name “Trex”. Composite decking materials are manufactured of recycled plastics and wood fibers combined with binders, which are formed and pressed together. They come in standard dimensions. Even solid and hollow vinyl and plastics are finding their way into the construction of decks, gazebo’s and fences.
Whether your deck is large or small, wood, composite, or vinyl, they all require regular maintenance. Though there are variations, the procedure typically involves performing any needed repairs, then a thorough cleaning, then (if yours is wood) the application of a wood preservative, sealer or stain. Painting is also an option.
Method of Cleaning
The age and condition of each deck is obviously going to be a little bit different, but the cleaning method is usually about the same. It involves applying a mild, but effective, pre-treatment cleaning solution. After adequate dwell time, we will pressure wash with the least amount of pressure that will yield an effective thorough cleaning. We want to minimize the mechanical impact of the water pressure to the surface of your deck or fence. We have been doing this for a very long time. We, and probably you too, have seen examples where less experienced people have used too much pressure and gouged, or otherwise permanently scarred the wood. We know better than this.
Protecting the wood
After the cleaning and washing is completed, we allow the wood to adequately dry. This may require a day or more, depending on weather (rain, humidity, temperature). It is now time to apply some form of protection for the wood. Keep in mind that once a tree is harvested and all of the bark stripped, the boards are very exposed and vulnerable. Factory “pressure treating” only protects the wood from rot and vermin. Pressure treating does not protect the wood from moisture and UV stresses. The extreme rigors of sun exposure and wet/dry, hot/cold cycling are very damaging to the wood.
Which form of a protectant to apply is usually a matter of personal preference. By far, the most common product to be applied is a “transparent” or “clear” type of wood preservative. This type of product will provide UV and moisture protection, while still allowing the beauty of the wood and wood grain to remain visible. I put those words in quotes because the names on labels can sometimes cause confusion. Any time a product is applied to the wood, its appearance will be altered somewhat. Also, as wood ages, it tends to get darker.
Other options include stains which can vary from semi-transparent to semi-solid to solid (which closely resemble paint). Painting is also an option. Keep in mind that paint will start flaking eventually.
We are happy to discuss your own individual situation and preferences and help you decide which product to apply.
Chemical Stripping If needed and appropriate, it is also possible to strip an old or inferior stain, or paint, from a wood deck, gazebo or fence. We will apply chemical strippers to break down the stain/paint, then pressure wash to remove old paint/stain/stripper residue. Two to four stripping applications are usually required. Care is taken to protect surrounding bushes and personal property. This is a messy endeavor.
If a deck is cracking and/or splintering badly, you have a couple of options. One would be to be to replace the horizontal floor boards, the top of the handrails, and the stair treads. The horizontal surfaces always weather and age more rapidly than the vertical surfaces. A second, and less desirable option, is to sand the floor boards. In this procedure, we utilize heavy floor sanders to remove some of the deck surface. Each and every deck nail must be recessed prior to sanding. This must be done one at a time by hand with a heavy hammer and punch. If screws were used, they are usually much more difficult to recess making the sanding process economically unfeasible. The sanding process is very labor intensive, and is frequently not cost-effective, but it is an option. On rare occasions, we can remove the floor boards, flip them over, reattach and wash. A 2″ x 4″, or 2″ x 6″ board can usually withstand the rigors of this procedure, a 5/4″ x 6″ board, usually not.
In all cases, we recommend you follow a strict long-term maintenance regime. In order to maintain the best condition of a wood deck it will need to be cleaned regularly. You will also need to maintain a sufficient amount of wood preservative or stain in/on the wood to provide UV and moisture protection. It is not uncommon for this to be done every two to three years. What you can do: sweep leaves and debris regularly. Also, if your deck is under trees, clean the gaps between the floor boards regularly to promote drainage and better breathing. Mop with a mild cleaner and hose down a couple of times per year. If you will do this you will extend the period of time between needing us to perform a more thorough professional “deep clean”.
If your deck is brought up to good condition with proper deep cleaning and a thorough base of wood preservative you can expect about two years protection to the horizontal surfaces, and about three to four years to your vertical surfaces. This is not a guarantee, just a realistic approximation. What we do guarantee is that if you hire us your job will be a top-notch job, performed by dedicated experienced technicians, and surpassed by no one.