Is your deck ready for summer?


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May 26, 2023

Is your deck ready for summer?

Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently

Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission from purchases made through links on this page.

It's springtime, and that means summer and entertaining friends and family on your deck is fast approaching. But is your deck ready? Proper inspection and maintenance goes a long way to ensure your deck is safe for summer entertaining.

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Harsh winters with lots of snow can weaken your wooden deck, not to mention the freezing and thawing of ice can also wreak havoc, especially on wooden decks. Most decks collapse due to the separation from the house and the deck ledger board, rotting deck boards, posts and beams.

It is essential to perform a complete visual inspection on wood decks made of natural redwood, cedar, or pressure-treated wood, to ensure no damage has occurred from the winter. You must inspect the entire structure, including the area under the deck, for decay, mildew, or protruding nails.

You should also look for cracks, inspect damage, rust on fasteners or connectors, loose stair railings, and unsafe areas.

To keep the ledger board in good condition, during the winter months, ensure the area is free from clutter and from a buildup of snow. The harsh freeze/thaw conditions can allow water to get between the ledger board and the house, which can cause the fasteners to rust and become loose.

The entire length of the deck's ledger board needs to be firmly anchored to the house and never nailed. A deck needs to support a lot of weight, including furniture, a barbecue, and people. Nails and even screws are insufficient for this task since they lack the necessary shear strength. Make sure the bolts run into the solid structure, that there's no dry rot and there are enough fasteners holding the ledger board in place.

Even if everything is done right, there can still be a lot of damage caused when water gets in behind the ledger board and enters your home. Every bolt needs to be caulked and sealed and the ledger board needs to be properly flashed to prevent water penetration.

Deck railings are a crucial safety component. If you have little children, the spindles on your deck railings should be spaced no more than four inches (10-cm), apart. Ensure the railing is solid and secure as it is essential to supporting anyone using the deck stairs. If the railings are not secure, get them fixed right away to prevent a safety liability.

A pressure-treated pine deck is also prone to rot, and was traditionally green in colour due to the chemical treatment applied. It now comes in a brown colour but is still chemically treated, just more attractive. Even though this wood is rated for outdoor use, it will still start to rot or decay after several years, so it is still essential to double-check the ground posts and stair stringers.

Wood decks can develop mildew over the winter, but a good wood cleaner can help. If you intend on using a pressure washer on your deck, be careful and only use a low setting with a fan spray nozzle.

After cleaning the deck, you may find it's time for a fresh coat of stain or sealer as protection. The sun's UV rays degrade a wooden deck considerably quicker than in the shade, therefore you may need to apply stain or sealer more often. Most wood stains and finishes suggest a eighteen-month to three-year cycle. However, be sure to watch out for the signs of degradation, because if you ignore them your deck will have more damage. Composite decks require less maintenance, but still need to be cleaned, just not stained or sealed, however over time they may start to fade.

During the patio months, periodically rearrange your furniture, planters etc., to prevent bleaching and moisture collecting beneath. Use plastic or synthetic rugs instead of natural materials, which can trap moisture.

Another item to check off your list is lighting. The addition of outdoor lighting to your deck improves safety while also creating a nice ambience. Ensure you have lighting on the deck stairs so your visitors can use it safely. I have placed tiny LEDs all over my deck. You can also add hanging strings of lights to create a pleasant atmosphere. Make sure they’re close to an electrical source because you don't want any cords hanging precariously or dangling low where they could cause trip hazards.

To avoid accidents, provide adequate lighting around outdoor barbecues and cooking facilities.

Ensure that any outdoor extension cords have undergone all necessary safety inspections and are appropriate for outdoor use. All outdoor outlets should be GFCI-protected (ground fault circuit interrupters). Ensure there is also a weatherproof cover on all outlets.

Now that your deck is inspected and in tip top shape, all we need is the warmer weather to arrive so we can get the patio furniture out and start enjoying our decks.

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