It may be hard to believe that it’s that time of year already. But now is the perfect time for fall maintenance projects and to start getting your house ready to withstand another Midwest winter.
Smart homeowners know that the best way to take care of their home is prevention. This includes preventing undue exposure to seasonal changes and water damage. When it comes to fall deck maintenance and preparation for the winter, there are a few key steps to take before it’s covered with snow and ice.
How to Clean Your Deck at the End of Fall
As the days grow shorter and cooler, you and your family will be spending less time on the deck. This is when most homeowners in the Ohio area decide to move patio furniture and planters inside. Once you’ve stored things away in the garage or garden shed for the winter, it’s time to clear off the deck.
Clean off the Deck Surface
Dirt, grime, and leaves can really build up over the summer and fall. So, crucial deck maintenance should be done near the end of the fall season, before the heavy rains and snow hit. The first step in fall deck maintenance is to wash the deck surface. This is key to preventing the growth of algae, moss, mold and mildew on the wood during the winter.
We recommend using a power washer to spray away dirt and debris quickly and clean all the way down into the grain of the wood. If you don’t have access to a power washer, the next best thing is to use a hard-bristle broom, a hose with an adjustable spray nozzle, and a deck cleaner solution. You can find ready-made solutions, like Spray & Forget House and Deck Outdoor Cleaner, at the hardware store, or make your own deck cleaning mix. These products will help clear away stains and buildup on the deck as thoroughly as a pressure washer.
Check for Signs of Wood Rot and Decay
Every hardwood deck with age with time, no matter how well it’s sealed and winterized. So, when the surface of the deck has been cleaned off, you can check it for clues about other maintenance work needed.
First, you should just look over the surface for visual signs of water damage and peeling sealant. Next, walk the entire length of the deck to feel if any deck boards are bouncy, creaky, or spongey. Then, look underneath the deck as well. You will want to use a flashlight and inspect the joists for mold, mildew, wood rot and termite damage.
Fall is a good time to address:
Cracked or split wood,
Weathered or warped wood,
Rotting boards, and
Doing small maintenance jobs over time, however, is always less time consuming and less expensive than having to replace the deck before the end of its life cycle. That’s why it’s best to fix these issues before the deck is exposed to the harsh winter temperatures and moisture again. Hammering down popped nails and replacing worn, damaged, and decaying wood will work to keep the structural integrity of the deck strong and prevent further damage.
It’s also a good idea to fix patches of peeling stain or sealant before water can penetrate into the wood. This might mean just doing spot repairs for now, then redoing the stain or seal completely when the weather dries in the spring.
If you come across spongey areas on the wood or damage to the joists supporting the deck, these may point to the need for more invasive repairs or even replacement.
How to Protect Your Deck in the Winter
Here is some simple advice on how to maintain your deck throughout the winter months.
Prevent Winter Water Damage
To keep your deck strong and protect it from winter weather and water, it should be treated with a high-quality sealant or stain.
Don’t Let Snow Pile Up
Winter deck prep also includes keeping the deck as clear and dry as possible. The snow can really pile up in Ohio, but sitting moisture is the ultimate enemy of any type of wood. Melting snow and slow drainage can lead to mildew, mold, and rotting wood. So, we recommend removing mounds of snow from the deck and features attached to your house. Avoid using deicing products, salt, or sharp shovels; it’s better to opt for a push broom that won’t scratch the wood or damage the finish. Some homeowners also use tarps to help keep snow and ice off the surface of the deck. Over time, this can decrease the amount of warping, cracking and water damage affecting the wood.
Watch this video to see how using the wrong snow removal method can actually damage your wood deck.
Why Winterizing the Deck Is Important
Similar to home exteriors, decks require seasonal care to prevent mold growth and water damage. Fall deck maintenance will help protect the wood from harsh winter weather, ensure it looks good in the spring, and essentially extend its life. Keeping the deck free of furniture, dirt, leaves and other debris will also decrease the appearance of stains, discoloration, rust and mildew.
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