Proper deck maintenance isn’t difficult, but it can be tricky. The most frequent mistakes that home owners make are pressure washing, using chlorine bleach, and sealing their decks with a commercially advertised “deck sealer.”
Contrary to popular belief, pressure washing is one of the worst things you can do to a wood deck. The high pressure streams of water erode the soft spring wood that lies between the darker bands of summer wood in the lumber. The result is razor-sharp, splintered wood covering your deck floor and handrails.
Using a chlorine-bleach based product is also a big mistake. The bleach removes natural color from the wood; is corrosive to nails and screws; and breaks down the wood fibers. A better choice is a high-quality oxygen bleach. When this powder is mixed with water, it releases non-toxic oxygen ions that kill mildew and algae and loosens weathered wood fibers, dirt and grime. This “green” product is safe for plants and animals.
What’s the best way to seal your deck? Surprisingly, not the popular “deck sealer” products you find in the home improvement stores. These products often contain animal fat or natural oils that are food for mildew and algae.
A much better solution is an epoxy sealer that contains synthetic resins. These penetrate the surface of the wood, rather than form a film that will soon peel away. Resins that include some color will also help delay damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.