The Need to Protect Wood

Wood, even if it has been pressure-treated, must still be cleaned and sealed to prolong its life. While decks and fences made of pressurized wood, cedar, cypress, and other exotic woods are safe from insect infestation, but they are not invulnerable to weather’s corrosive effects. Wood that does not have protective coating can pose a danger in just a year or two.  All wood will crack, split, bow, cup, or shrink. This happens especially in the drying out phase shortly after install. This is something we have no control over. Staining and protecting your deck properly may limit these natural causes and help protect your investment.

When is Wood Ready for Sealing?

All decks are different. There are many factors that play a role in when a deck is ready to be stained. We recommend using a stain that specifically designed for wet wood applications if you are wanting to use stain right away. These types of stains may be hard to find locally so if you are using a conventional stain we recommend waiting until the wood dry’s out a bit so that the stain will absorb into the wood.

You can easily tell if the wood is ready for sealing. A simple method is to sprinkle drops of water on the surface of the wood. If the water is quickly absorbed, it means that the wood is dry enough and is ready for sealing. If water beads off the wood, then we recommend waiting for the wood to dry a bit longer unless using a sealant or stain that may be applied to wet lumber.

 The first time you stain your new deck, the stain may absorb differently in different locations on your deck due to how the lumber dry’s out.  The stain will not always take the best on the first stain so please be nice to your deck staining company.

If it’s an older deck and graying as already started your a bit late on protecting it but better late then never.  Start by cleaning your project with a cleaner/brightener that contains a mildewcide if needed. Because your deck is new, this step is truly preventive.  

Your choice of sealer and stain should include not only a water repellent but also a UV stabilizer to slow the discoloration process. Semitransparent stains with water repellent should be applied to new pressure-treated wood as soon as the wood is surface dry.  

We do not recommend the use of a conventional multi-coat paint system or varnish. The performance is nearly always disappointing, and repainting often must be preceded by scraping and sanding.

Cleaning your deck prior to sealing and staining is very important.  Other contractors may say that wood should be sealed after a year so that the wood is completely dry. However, a year maybe to long of a time to wait to seal the wood.  During this time, the wood would have incurred too much damage, most of which cannot be reversed. Standard decking can be completely dry and ready for sealing in two or three months.   It has been found that wood that has been sealed within three months is much more durable and look better than wood that has been sealed after one year.  If your decking is Prowood brand as we typically use, we recommend reviewing  Prowood Maintenace as the decking may have an extra treatment

Due to the nature of wood it contracts and expands throughout it’s life. If you use a coating product it most likely will peel and flake and you will need to strip it down or completely sand the deck to get down to bare wood to apply a new coat. Coatings or a solid color stain I would recommend as your last resort towards the end of the life of the decking. If you choose a semi-transparent stain you can go over it and over it down the road. It’s always best to start with lighter colors as well as you can always go a bit darker down the road.

Preparing the Wood for Sealing

To prepare the wood for sealing, thoroughly clean the wood. Get rid of mold, mildew, dirt, and algae that may be present on the wood. Wood that is properly cleaned has open pores and balanced pH, allowing the sealer to adhere to the wood.

Dangers of Pressure Washing Wood

Pressure washing is one way to clean wood with or without cleaners mixed with the water. However, because water impacts the wood at a high velocity, the wood’s surface can become damaged and we don’t recommend it unless having it done by a professional.

In order for this cleaning method to be successful and not damage the wood, the right amount of pressure must be applied and the right cleaning solution must be used. If you are pressure washing the wood, be careful not to apply too much pressure. In addition, keep in mind that pressure washers that are for rent are typically designed to have a pressure of 1750 to 3500 psi. These pressure washers, though, are too much for wood.

The ideal for pressure washing wood is between 800 and 1200 psi. In addition, never pressure wash wood with hot water. Doing so will sharply raise the wood grain and cause striping. Striping is indentation marks left on the wood when pressure washing the wood is improperly done — such as starting and stopping the cleaning stroke as the wand of the pressure washing is aimed very close to the surface of the wood. Striping causes the wood fence or deck to look uneven an appear as if it was poorly built.

Oil-Based Sealers

Oil-based sealers are derived from either crude oil or vegetable oils such as tung or linseed oil. Crude oil sealer is able to penetrate wood better, so the result is wood that looks natural and soft. On the other hand, vegetable oils give the wood some sheen, making it look like the wood has been varnished. Vegetable oil sealers have natural sugars and starches, which can encourage mildew and mold growth. In addition, vegetable oil sealers can be difficult to remove. Crude-based sealers, unlike vegetable oil sealers, are easier to strip but who wants to do that?

I also recommend people to use deck sealers that had color pigments in them to retard the graying process. The microscopic pigment particles in the sealers and water repellent products are very effective at absorbing the ultraviolet light that causes wood fibers to turn gray.

Sealer/ Stain is what protects your deck from the elements. To keep your deck at its best, it should be resealed every other year. Deck cleaning you should do 2-3 times per year and we recommend a deck cleaner and a scrub brush to be safe.

Deck Maintenance Tips for Snow/Ice:

At All Decked Out, we do not recommend using rock salt on your treated deck. Rock salt can be damaging to treated lumber, It can leave it splotchy looking or worse can cause cracks to appear in the wood when spring hits. We recommend taking the time to shovel the snow and ice off of your deck with a plastic shovel and make sure to shovel in the direction as the decking planks. If necessary use sand, kitty litter or calcium chloride pellets  to help with high traffic areas and simply sweep off when snow has stopped falling.

For Composite deck maintenance, we recommend visiting the manufacturer’s websites for proper care and cleaning. 

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