With cold icy winters and hot humid summers, decks in the North endure a great deal of Mother Nature’s abuse. In addition to keeping up with regular maintenance, it’s important to look out for clues that indicate potential safety hazards, regardless of a deck’s height. By knowing the signs of wear and tear, you can address small issues before they become expensive repairs.
Spotting Wear and Tear on Your Deck
The wood crumbles and falls apart: When a wooden deck is exposed to too much moisture, dry rot may occur. Dry rot refers to fungal decay. When the fungus lives on wood, it digests the properties that give the lumber its stiffness and strength. At first, dry rot looks might look like orange dust. As it grows, the spores form white strands on the wood. Eventually, the wood gets soft and crumbles.
The structure leans away from the house: When a deck separates from a ledger board, it’s in danger of collapsing. This may occur when fasteners or connecters are loose or missing, the wood decays or because of poor fastener choices (i.e., using nails instead of lag bolts).
Small holes in the boards: Small holes may indicate the presence of insects living in or traveling through the deck. By identifying the offending insect, you can determine if they’re the kind that live in or eat decaying wood.
The wood seems slick: If the boards have a greenish hue to them, the wood may have a mildew or algae problem.
The deck’s color faded: Wood and other materials fade when exposed to the sun. To keep a deck’s original color, you may need to re-stain and re-seal it every couple of years, depending on the materials used.
The wood cracks and splinters: It is common for wood to splinter and crack with age, particularly if you don’t use a protective finish. Exposure to the elements can also cause deck boards to warp.
Corroding fasteners and connectors: Exposure to moisture leads to oxidation and corrosion with most types of metals. If you don’t prevent or limit the corrosion, the rust that forms can stain the wood on the structure.
Ignoring wear and tear on a deck can shorten its lifespan and pose serious safety hazards. If you are not sure about how to identify such concerns or remedy them, contact us to inspect and maintain the structure annually.
As a homeowner, you want the exteriors of your home to look as good and beautiful as the interiors. Hence, maintaining your deck is vital. A clean deck not only looks good, it extends the life of the structure as well. However, when it comes to cleaning your deck, you may not want to use elbow grease as it is time consuming and tiring. So, what will you do? Power washing is the most common way to deep clean a deck, but do the pros outweigh the cons?
To Power Wash or Not
There is no doubt a pressure washer can clean your deck quickly and effortlessly. Hence, it is often the tool of choice when cleaning a wooden deck. But, did you know pressure washers are strong enough to destroy the surface of wood used on the deck? The pressurized water that comes out of the nozzle of the washer can swiftly erode the wood fibers. If the wood fibers don’t get eroded, you could end up with a wooden surface that is rough after the deck dries. So, before powerwashing your wooden deck, it is important to do the proper research as not to damage the deck.
This said, there are some professional deck construction services who claim erosion occurs only when inexperienced homeowners are the reason for damage to a deck. These experts feel this is because homeowners are not used to using the pressure washer. They go wrong because of one of the following:
• Using an incorrect tip
• Keeping the water pressure too high
• Holding the tip of the pressure washer too close to the deck’s surface
The Bottom Line
If you decide to powerwash your deck, make sure you first test the pressure of the water on an inconspicuous corner of your deck. If it hasn’t damaged the deck, go ahead and powerwash your deck. However, if you are unsure, simply call us atWoodscape to learn how we can extend the life of your deck and keep it in it's best shape!
• Rattan and Wicker – Natural materials like rattan and wicker provide a casual, comfortable look for your deck, but they will require weatherproofing every few years. Synthetic rattan and wicker has a resin finish that will last a lot longer.
• Steel and Wrought Iron – Both materials are extremely sturdy, but will need cushions for comfort. They're great for the outdoors, but will need to be painted or treated periodically with a weatherproof finish to prevent rust.
• Aluminum, Plastic and PVC – These materials are rustproof, lightweight, inexpensive and easy to maintain with a little soap and water. However, because of their lightweight construction, they may need to be secured in high winds and storms.
Your deck needs your care and attention in order to stay in good shape over the years. It is important to get your deck ready for the summer months, and spring is the time to do it. Prepping for the upcoming summer takes only a few steps, but you must take your time with each step in order to make sure this outdoor space is safe and ready for summer fun.
Give it a good inspection
The first thing you should do is go over the entire space visually. Look for loose boards and nails and check the rails and supports. This gives you the chance to repair or replace anything that’s not in great condition. Sand down splinters and tighten screws where needed. You may or may not need to replace boards, depending on any damage that may have accrued.
Give it a good cleaning
The next step is to clean. Start off with sweeping and hosing off all the debris. On a cloudy day, or during a time when the sun won’t bake the soap, wash the deck with a soap and water mixture. Then rinse it well. You will want to wait a couple days before doing anything else. This allows time to get the space completely dry.
Give it extra protection
Once your space is completely clean you will want to restain, if needed, and seal it for extra protection through the summer months. Depending on the foot traffic, you should only have to restain your deck about once every three years. Plan to do this step when you have two full days of fair weather with no rain in the forecast. Prep the entire space with a light sanding, as this will raise the grain in the area and allow the stain and sealant to absorb.
When applying your sealant you want to use a roller and do it in thin, even coats. You may need to use a small brush to get between the boards. Once you have applied the sealant, give the deck a couple days to fully set and dry before you use it.
Once the area is good and dry, you can bring out the barbecue, the table and chairs, and enjoy the fun summer months. Gather together with friends and family and start off your summer with an outdoor barbecue party on your great refurbished deck!
For more tips on how to refurbish your deck or if you're looking for someone to build your dream deck, contact us at Woodscape!
As the winter months quickly come to a close, you may be dreaming of the many things you can do to welcome in the warmer weather. Fortunately, there are many fun things you and your family can do on your Woodscape deck that will have you loving every minute of your outdoor time. Here are a few of our favorites:
Plan a scavenger hunt: Using your deck as home base, plan an alphabet scavenger hunt in your back yard. Just make a label for each letter of the alphabet then set the kids loose to see if they can find an item for each letter. Whomever finds all 26 items first wins!
Plant a container garden: Nothing beats fresh veggies in the spring and summer! With just a few planters and some organic soil, you can grow your own vegetables this summer. Give vining veggies like pumpkin or cantaloupe room to grow upward by providing a sturdy trellis, and other top-heavy plants like tomatoes cages to keep them under control. You can also try companion planting to get the most out of your space.
Play lawn dice: Play a game of dice using a few blocks of wood that have been sanded down and branded with corresponding dots. Games like Farkle, Yhatzee or Craps make excellent party games because the rules are simple and multiple people can play. So break out the outdoor chalk board and challenge your friends to a friendly game of dice this summer.
Play life-sized chess: There is no time to be bored when there are board games to be played, and chess is no exception. If you've got the space, then why not make a checker board on you our deck using painters tape? After the board has been prepared, use black and while blocks of wood to play checkers, or use life-sized chess pieces for a more challenging game.
Summer is almost here. Celebrate with these fun deck activities for the whole family! To learn more about how a deck can transform your home, contact Woodscape Construction.
With spring around the corner, now is the perfect time to select a BBQ for your deck and get ready to welcome warm weather, family, and friends. However, do you know which BBQ would be perfect for your newly installed deck?
Not just any BBQ will do! You need one that not only fulfills your needs, but that fits into your budget and goes well with your new deck. So, here are some tips to help you select the perfect BBQ:
This is going to be the main concern prior to buying a BBQ. How much and what you want to cook will help you decide which model will suit your requirement. For instance, a couple may not need the same large size that a family of 6 would require.
The grill size depends on several factors. Some of these include what you intend cooking – entrees or appetizers, number of people attending your BBQ, deck size, and the frequency of grilling. If you are an infrequent user and believe in hosting close friends and family, a small or medium sized BBQ is perfect. Also, depending on the size of your deck, avoid a grill that will take up too much space.
If you will be using your BBQ frequently, it's worth the investment to go with a reputable brand model. For occasional use, opt for a more basic model.
Gas or Charcoal?
These days, many grills use propane gas and heat up quickly. Their temperature can also be controlled easily. Moreover, they are convenient to clean. However, if you are a BBQ fanatic, the taste from a charcoal BBQ can't be beat!
Having a fire pit means you can enjoy your backyard and deck year round. The ambiance of an outdoor fire pit creates the perfect spot for relaxation, fun, and good conversation. Fire pits are easy to clean and portable, but before you choose one, there are a few things to consider:
Size of Your Deck
The fire pit should fit well on your deck and not take too much space. Additionally, you do not want to choose a fire pit that is too small and difficult to fit around. Pits range in size, with smaller options being 20” to 25” and large ones about 40” to 45”. The smaller ones usually consist of a bowl and are ideal for compact decks.
The fire pit you choose should be one that fits your needs. There are different options in the market such as gas fire pits, wood burning or fire pits with chimneys. A wood burning fire pit may be the most cost effective route and is great for cooking.
Before purchasing, ensure that you know what surrounds your deck so you can make a choice that will fit well with the surroundings and the yard design.
There are two common types of fire pits:
Brick fire pits
These can be built to suite your needs and space, whether small or large.
This style is perfect for decks, patios, and grassy yards and can usually be moved easily. For spacious yards or a permanent location, a stationary square pit is a good choice.
The materials for fire pits range from copper and stainless steel, to stone and tile. As stones are heavy, they are best used with large square pits, which will be stationery. Stainless steel is pricey, but easy to clean and are rust resistant.
It is almost time to get outside and enjoy the Spring weather! Before you set up the patio furniture, you will need to prep your decking. This means it is time to clean, restore, and take protective measures so that your deck will be ready. These steps will allow you to get the most from your deck all through Spring and Summer.
Give your decks a good cleaning
The first step in cleaning is to sweep and brush off all debris. Pay attention to the nook and crannies. You don't want debris left on the deck when you finally seal it. Once you have cleared the area, choose your cleaner and wash the area. Do this on a cloudy day so the sun does not evaporate the cleaner as you work. Simply follow the cleanering instructions and then let dry.
Get rid of the unwanted spots
Before you finish the area you will want to strip away any deteriorating or unwanted finishes. You can completely strip the space if you want a change or if the finish has worn out too much. Or you can lightly sand any areas that may need it. This way you are left with a smooth surface that won't collect mold, mildew, or rot once stained and sealed. Also, take this time to replace any boards that may be damaged. Then finish up by replacing missing or popped nails and screws.
Seal your deck
Now your deck is ready for staining or painting depending on your preference. You will follow the instructions given with the stain or decking paint. Let dry before sealing.
The final step to preparing your decking for Spring is to apply a sealant. Plan this task when you will have a couple clear, warm days for drying. Choose a sealer that is appropriate for your decking material. No matter what sealant you pick, whether it be transparent or semi-transparent, be sure to use a sealant that is water repellent.
When applying the sealer use a roller and stay within 2 to 4 boards at a time. Be careful not to let the sealant pool, apply two thin coats for a good and even seal. Use smaller rollers and brushes for railings and edges.
For more information on care and maintenance of your deck, or if your deck has reached the point of no return and it's time to upgrade, visit us at Woodscape Construction.
A long winter can be hard on you, and even tougher on your deck. This year, follow these tips to clean your deck after the winter and have it looking as good as new.
During the cold weather, your deck is exposed to a variety of damaging conditions. Ice, sleet, and snow can cause wear. To minimize this damage, you should follow these steps to thoroughly clean it when the winter has passed.
Clear the area of any furniture and accessories. If you have any plants on the ground surrounding it, you should cover them with a plastic sheet. this will protect them from any debris that may fall on them. Take a broom and sweep off any dirt and debris that has accumulated, removing any large items by hand. Be sure to check in between the boards and remove anything that has accumulated with something narrow, such as the end of a hoe.
2. Rinse the Area
If you have access to a power-washer, rinse all of the grime off the surface. Start at one end, and work your way to the other as you spray. Keep the nozzle far enough from the surface that the spray doesn't damage it. Spray between the boards to clean any remaining debris. If you do not have a power-washer, you can use a hose with a good nozzle.
3. Clean It
Starting at one end, use a commercial cleaner with a stiff-bristled brush to clean the area. When you reach the end, rinse the entire space with a hose. To remove any algae that may have grown during the winter, make a bleach solution of one part bleach and four parts water. Pour it over the affected area and allow it to sit 15 minutes before scrubbing it and rinsing it.
4. Sealing the Wood
After the wood has completely dried, you can seal it. Use a sealant of your choice, taking into consideration the climate. Follow the instructions of the sealant and your deck will be prepared for anything.
Cleaning your deck properly after winter can prevent damage, and keep it looking good. Just a simple cleaning can make a big difference.
It is said that “April is the cruelest month,” but when it comes to decks, nothing compares to the weather – and the damage – produced by Mother Nature during the winter months. The only protection is to take some proactive measures in the months before. Here are the basics for winter deck care in the Maryland and Virginia area:
Clean Thoroughly: This step involves more than just removing the remnants of your end-of-year barbecue party. Instead, you must actually search for and remove any mold, mildew, moss and or algae that will continue to degrade the wood during the winter months. Use a mild bleach-infused cleaner and a stiff, bristle brush to accomplish this.
Make Repairs: Believe it or not, the freezing and thawing cycle can really exacerbate any damage to your deck that may have occurred over the summer months. In short, instead of a minor fix now, you might be looking at a major one or complete replacement come next spring if you ignore the problem. In particular, ensure that the planking is solidly connected, that any fencing is firmly planted in the ground and that all gates are securely attached.
Apply a Protective Finish: Whether you are looking for a colored sealant or just a clear one, it is imperative to use one that protects the deck from water infiltration as, over the winter, the freeze/thaw cycle can cause irreparable damage. There are a number of reputable and proven products on the market.
Don't Shovel Any Snowfall: Here's a great tip that will save you both time and effort as well as help protect your deck - do not shovel any snow that collects on top. Simply put, it saves your back and does no harm to the wood since the snow will not penetrate into the deck. Only shovel if there is a large accumulation which can be very heavy.
For more information on properly preparing your deck for the coming winter weather, please visit us at Woodscape Construction.
If your home has an existing wood deck or you're planning new deck construction, it's important to protect it with a good sealer. Proper deck maintenance will improve the strength and durability of the wood and protect your deck from daily wear-and-tear.
Once wood is harvested as bare lumber, it looses it's protection from the natural oils in tree bark. It becomes dry, brittle and subject to harmful effects of the elements. Rain, snow and standing water cause wood to swell, while sunlight exposure causes wood to shrink, dry out and become brittle. This constant process of swelling and shrinking causes wood to become unstable, resulting in cracking, twisting and warping. If your wooden deck is not protected with a good sealer, your deck construction will eventually rot and fall apart.
The best time to seal your deck depends on several factors – the age of your deck, your climate, and local weather conditions. If you apply a sealer at the wrong time, your deck won't be fully protected.
Your Deck's Age – If you have new deck construction, you should wait at least one year before applying a sealer. New wood needs to dry and cure properly for a sealer to penetrate the wood. With a new deck, protect your deck with a new wood treatment for the first year, then followup with a sealer. If you have an older wooden deck, you need to reseal your deck every 12 to 18 months for best protection.
Your Climate – Since most wood sealant products work best in mild temperatures, the best time to apply a sealer to your wooden deck is spring or fall. If it's too hot or too cold, the sealer won't penetrate the wood's surface properly. Check specific directions on your product label.
Weather Conditions – Before you apply a sealer, you need to clean your wooden deck to remove dirt and debris. Power wash your deck construction and allow it to dry for two to three days. When dry, apply your sealer and allow one or two days for drying. Check your local weather conditions and choose five to six days with mild temperatures and no rain forecast.
Poor deck maintenance causes homeowners to repair or replace thousands of decks each year, so protect your wooden deck with a good sealer.
Decks need to be cleaned from time to time, and the process doesn't need to be as difficult as you may think. Pressure washers are commonly used for deck-cleaning, but come with the potential for damaging the surface of the deck if used incorrectly. This is because some woods are relatively soft and can splinter under the high PSI put out by many pressure washers. Chemicals are another option and can be effective, as long as the right ones are chosen. Here are some tips to make cleaning your deck less difficult and to keep you from damaging it:
Failing to get rid of all the dust and sand on the surface of your deck could result in a muddy, grimy mess once you start to power wash or apply cleaners.
Inspect for Rot
If you find that some boards are damaged beyond repair, this is the best time to replace them. You should also check to see if your deck needs to be sealed in order to prevent rot further down the road. If a drop of water dripped onto the surface soaks into the wood, you should consider resealing it after cleaning.
Use a Pressure Washer on Your Deck
To avoid damaging softer woods used for deck construction, you should opt to use a PSI no greater than 1200. Additionally, you will want to use the sprayer fan for the best effect. The spray arc should be between 25 and 40 degrees.
Choose the Right Deck Cleaner
Your options will include chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach and oxalic acid. These three chemicals are ingredients in most of the commercial deck cleaners available on the market. One effective (and environmentally friendly) way to use them is to first clean with oxygen bleach and then use the oxalic acid to brighten the deck.
Test Cleaners Before Use
Before committing to a particular deck cleaning chemical, first test it on a small area that is out of the way. Some cleaners can stain the deck's surface, so this allows you to make sure that it is safe to use.
Deck construction is an excellent way to add value to your home. However, to get the full benefits of your wooden deck, investing some time and effort into regular maintenance is best. It especially a good idea to clean your deck before and afterharsh winter weather. The tips above can help you to keep your deck in pristine shape!
Your deck is an important part of your home. A beautiful, well-maintained deck adds value, function and expands your living space.
Just like the rest of your home, decks need to be maintained if they are to last. Being outdoors means they are exposed to the harsh elements that every season brings. Wind and sun, rain and snow. These elements each take their toll.
This abuse year after year can damage even the sturdiest deck construction.
Prepping Your Deck For Winter
Winter brings cold temperatures and moisture. These can cause a number of problems. Ideally, the best deck construction maintenance is prevention. Before winter hits, it is a good idea to thoroughly clean your deck. Remove dirt and debris. Applying a sealer will help keep moisture from seeping in and weakening the wood, or laying the groundwork for mold later on.
Sweep the deck thoroughly, and use a power washer. Allow the wood to dry and apply the sealer. This should be done every fall, before the rain and snow starts.
Tips For Winter Maintenance
It is a good idea to keep the deck free of furnishings and other items for the winter. Store patio furniture in the garage or shed. Potted plants should also be moved, or at least elevated on some type of stand. Furniture left sitting on the deck may cause rust marks. Water collecting underneath furniture, planters or other items may encourage rot and mold. Finally, be sure to shovel off any snow that piles up. Follow these tips to keep your deck in good shape all year long.
Adding a deck to your home is a great way to increase your living space, but it can be difficult to choose what type of materials to use. The most common deck construction materials are natural wood and composite.
This is the most commonly used in deck construction. Many people choose natural wood because they prefer the look, feel, and smell of a wooden deck.
Upkeep- Depending on the quality of wood, you will need to sand and re-stained your deck roughly every 2-5 years to prevent rot and maintain your deck’s visual appeal. Wood decks are popular in milder climates, as harsh elements like the sun, snow, and hail may wear faster, requiring frequent maintenance.
Lifespan- With proper maintenance, your wood deck should last from 30-50 years. To get the longest life out of your deck, consider a premium wood, and use high-quality stain at regular intervals.
Cost- Costs vary depending on the quality of wood you use. Premium wood like redwood usually requires less upkeep and has a longer lifespan than the lower cost options like pressure-treated pine.
This newer option is designed to look like real wood planks and is sometimes indistinguishable from natural wood. Composite wood manufactured from wood fiber and plastic and is quickly becoming a popular choice due to its durability and low maintenance.
Upkeep- Composite wood is designed to require very little upkeep. You never need to re-stain and it is resistant to pests and fading.
Lifespan- Since composite wood is designed with durability in mind, it usually will last longer than a natural wood dock. It will not rot or splinter, and holds up betteragainst the elements and normal wear and tear.
Cost- A Composite wood deck is usually more expensive to build, however many homeowners find that its low maintenance and high durability make it well worth the additional up-front cost.
When deciding which material to use in your deck construction, you must decide which factors are most important to you. Do you prefer the traditional look, feel, and smell of wood? If you do not mind the maintenance, a natural wood deck can be a great low-cost option. However if you are looking for a low-maintenance deck or live in a harsh climate, a composite wood deck may be a better choice for your needs.