One of the quintessential summer events is entertaining and just enjoying the outside relaxing and grilling on a deck, so as warmer weather arrives, it’s important to make sure your structure is ready for some summer fun.
We spoke with Joel Boyer of Unique Deck Builders to learn spring deck maintenance and safety tips! Joel has been building decks since 1982 and is part of the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), an organization dedicated to professional development and growth in the deck and railing industry.
Essential deck safety tips
According to the NADRA, more than half of all decks in the U.S. have lived past their life expectancy or approximately 30 million decks. That’s why it’s important to get your deck inspected and maintained by a professional, but there are few DIY deck safety tasks you can do to make sure your deck is ready for summer.
DIY deck safety tasks
- Tighten up nuts, screws, and nails that have popped or come loose.
- Confirm that no deck boards are hanging loose.
- Check the sway of the rails to make sure they’re firm.
- Ensure the stairs feel sturdy when you’re walking on them.
- Check for weaknesses in the railing, supports, and mounting points.
Don’t forget to check under your deck, too.
“Make sure there’s no holes going underneath your deck where animals are starting to live after the winter,” says Joel with a laugh. “You’d freak out if you saw that big gopher living underneath there, looking back at you.”
(Joel recommends calling animal control first before your deck professional with this issue.)
If you have concerns over the safety of your deck, always call a professional.
“All of us professional deck builders will complete a maintenance safety check,” says Joel.
NARDA promotes deck safety awareness and proper deck installations and annual inspections every May with National Deck Safety Month.
Composite deck cleaning and maintenance
You might be wondering, “Which is better, wood decking or composite?” We’re on Team Composite.
“We’re selling 99% composite decks,” says Joel, “and we’ve moved on to companies such as Deckorators. It’s the only company in the business that offers a 50-year material warranty, 25-years stain and fade warranty, and 25-year labor warranty included.”
These decks are mineral-based composite and they are forever, meaning you don’t have to worry about bugs, such as carpenter ants and termites.
Plus, composite decks are maintenance free since they don’t need to be resealed or stained. Homeowners only need to worry about cleaning it.
“If it gets really dirty with mud, you can use soap and water to clean the deck,” says Joel. “If you drop grease on it from your grill, you may have to clean it with a simple cleaner to cut down the grease.”
Joel suggests using soap and water on composite boards for most stains, such as barbecues, leaf, sunscreen, slime, and even hard water marks.
Wooden deck maintenance
“Most of the decks that I see today are old and rotted cedar wood decks that are anywhere from five years old and on, and need constant maintenance,” says Joel.
Real wood decks can crack, splinter, and create hazardous situations. If you enjoy your wood deck and want to keep it healthy, then you should contact a professional to help with the maintenance and upkeep.
“Most homeowners don’t know how to power wash in the right direction or which oil-based sealers to use,” says Joel. “I recommend only having your deck professionally done by someone who’s got a good reputation and years in business.”
When good decks go bad
Decks can be a great addition to every home, but if you’re buying a home with one already built, there are a few things you need to be on the lookout for.
“I see a lot of the older decks were not mounted to the house correctly – a lot of bowing and sagging,” says Joel.
Rotting boards and supports, cracked boards, and black or green moss from algae are frequent problems with older, neglected decks.
“I see a lot of the wear and tear,” says Joel, who notes that homes in the eighties and nineties were frequently built with decks. “Your deck’s been outside for more than 15 years. It’s going to look beat up, and some homeowners have never touched them.”
Upgrade your outdoor living space
Do you need to elevate your outdoor living space? Though prices vary, Joel says new composite decks generally run around $80 per square foot and approximately $40 per square foot for wood decks.
“Composite pays for itself in seven years because every year you’re washing and staining your wooden deck at $2,000,” per year says Joel. “It adds up pretty quickly.”
When discussing upgrading options, it’s important to know you have many. Today’s decks aren’t your parents’ decks.
“Glass rails are an option. Lighted post caps, solar LED post caps – basically anything a homeowner would want,” says Joel. “You’ve got fire pits that could be set on them if they’re UL approved.”
Additional feature features include pergolas, arbors, and pavilion roofs.
“You can sit underneath, outside, and not be bothered by rain, but still be outside with a TV on the wall and heaters in the ceiling to provide extra warmth in the fall and early spring. You’ve got all these new options you can choose from.”
When buying a deck, consider the 50-year warranty option.
“You’re buying your last deck from Decorators forever,” says Joel. “You don’t buy another deck until you move.”
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