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Is Your Deck Up to Par? How to Fix it Up for Spring & Summer

Brent Lunde - Monday, April 13, 2015

As the clouds part, and we've begun planting our gardens, whether in raised beds or in containers, it's that time of year when we naturally want to be spending more time outdoors. If you have a deck, that probably means it's worthwhile to assess whether or not the deck is in need of a.) repairs, b.) cleaning, or c.) sealing or staining.



Are there areas of your deck that have rotted away or need sanding? Now's the time to fix anything that needs a little extra attention before you stain the deck. Keep an eye out for warping in the wood, which indicates water damage, nails that are popping out and splintering. Address all of these items before proceeding.



It's necessary to clean your deck and lift contaminants in order to apply deck stain. This allows them to form a stronger bond to the wood fibers. Homeowners often think that pressure washing is the best way to clean away winter's grime, but in fact, there are specially-designed solutions that can work a lot better since they don't cause splintering. There are a handful of commonly used deck-cleaning solutions to choose from. Almost all of them will contain one of the following four chemicals, outlined by This Old House. It's important to know which one is right for the type of stain you've used on your wood in the past.


Sodium Hypochlorite

Also known as chlorine bleach, this solution is very strong and works well for ridding wood of mildew, but not so well for ridding it of stains and dirt. One strategy is to mix it with a detergent that doesn't have bleach in it. Either way, make sure to "thoroughly rinse the deck after using this chemical because it can eat away at the wood, resulting in fuzzing and premature graying."


Sodium Percarbonate

This solution makes hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water. It's great for removing stains due to dirt and mildew.


Oxalic Acid

This agent removes iron stains and the "brown-black tannins that frequently occur with cedar and redwood decks." Keep in mind that although this can brighten your deck, it isn't effective in eliminating mildew, so it's better to use it after cleaning the wood with a bleach-based solution.


Sodium Hydroxide

Probably one of the strongest in this list, lye can eat away the wood, so don't leave it on for very long. It will do a great job of lifting stains, grime and dirt, but please be cautious when using.


As a general rule, it's always smart to wear protective glasses, gloves, closed toed shoes and long sleeves when using any of these chemicals. You might even want to consider wearing a face mask to protect yourself from harmful fumes.



First things first, does your deck need to be resealed? One good way to test this is to drip water on a portion of the wood. If it soaks in, the answer is yes, it needs to be sealed. If it stays in beads and doesn't soak in, then your deck is in better condition than you may have realized and you don't need to seal it this season.


Here are some quick tips from Lowes on sealing:


  • Don't apply sealants in direct sun (it will dry too quickly before the wood can fully absorb it)
  • Regularly sweep off your deck after it's been treated to keep it free of debris
  • Wait a few weeks before treating a brand-new deck so the lumber has a chance to fully dry out
  • Apply when you have at least two days of moderately warm, dry weather in a row


Click the link to read more about how to apply stain to a deck. Be sure to keep us in mind if you need a hand with your deck in the Vancouver/Washougal area!

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