Don’t Neglect the Deck

A deck is a great and appealing feature of your home. It adds additional living space during the warm and dry months, making your entire house feel larger. In some cases, a deck could be the largest space to gather everyone during special occasions and parties.

It would help if you did not forget about your deck when you head back indoors to escape the cold, wet, and snowy weather as you wait for spring. There are preparations you or Shirey Home Pro can complete to make sure your deck is ready for the return of Washington’s
excellent spring weather. It doesn’t matter how new or old your deck is. The better you maintain it, the longer its lifespan will be. All decks need to be maintained.

Here is the list of the deck maintenance tasks I believe to be important:
Home with a deck

Check the Framing

Why concern yourself with the deck board if the structure under the pretty decking is rotting? Checking the structure will be relatively simple if you have the ability to walk or crawl under your deck.

Rot can develop in every place where wood touches wood. Wherever wood touches horizontally, there is a higher potential for rot than vertical meetings. The deck’s portion exposed to more rain will have a higher chance of rotting. For example, the outer edge of the deck, where the railing posts are or anywhere water collects, will likely be the first spots to rot.

The first place to look for rot is where the deck boards lay on framing. Newer and well-built decks have strips of flashing tape on top of the framing to prevent rot.

Next, check the framing from the bottom of the decking to the ground. While there, you should check if the metal brackets are rusting. You want to ensure that the type of galvanization on the brackets is correct. Otherwise, the bracket could fail due to the corrosive reaction with the treated lumber. You are looking for the word “ZMAX” printed on the brackets. If you find that, you are good to go.

Check for Flashing

The board from your deck structure that attaches to your house is called the ledger board. It should not be attached to the house’s siding. It connects to the plywood sheathing under the siding via two lag screws per bay. There needs to be a Z-shaped piece of flashing that goes up behind the siding and down over the front of the ledger board to direct water away from the house. Not having this Z-shaped flashing is one of the most common mistakes I see, which can lead to large rot repair bills. Not only does it rot the deck, but it potentially affects the home’s framing, subfloors, and hardwood floors. You may see the flashing from above if there is a wide enough gap between the house and the deck boards. Additionally, try looking at the ends of the deck because the flashing should come past the ends of the ledger board. Another place to look is under the deck. If your deck doesn’t have flashing, call me at 425.392.8301 to discuss possible corrections and care. Either way, you will want to maintain the gap between the deck and the house, keeping it clear of debris.

Check the Railings

Are any pieces or pickets missing? By code, you want less than a 4” spherical gap between pickets and railing on the deck and stairs for complete protection. Also, make sure to pull and push the handrail to ensure its structural security.

Check the Stairs

Look for structural soundness, especially where the framing meets the ground. Is the railing secure? Are the treads and steps solid?

Check the Decking

First, I have built many cedar decks and will continue to build them when asked. They are beautiful. They smell great. They stain well and also look lovely when left natural. However, if I had it my way, I would never build another cedar deck again. If you want that newly built look back, it will not happen. You would need to sand it down like an interior hardwood floor and restain it, only to have to repeat the process regularly. Also, most people don’t think about having to refinish their deck, so they have screwed or nailed down the deck board and sand over these fasteners. Once you have sanded off the weather-resistant coating, the fasteners bleed gray into the deck boards. If you are set on a wood deck and want it to hold up better, I recommend hardwoods like IPE or Tigerwood. You can also ask me about other options.

If you have recently purchased a home with a newly installed cedar wood deck, know that the sellers likely installed the most economical decking possible, and who would blame them? This increases the risk that your new cedar deck will be high maintenance with a short lifespan.

Cedar decks used to be made of old-growth 2x4 boards. Now, people are using 1x4 boards from much younger trees, which means the deck won't last as long. Maintenance has become even more critical than ever. Clean out all the pine needles, leaves, dirt, and pet hair between the gaps in the boards and the flashing where moisture will promote rot.

One good thing about cedar wood decks is the broken or failing boards can be removed and replaced. The color won't match until the new boards weather, but at least you've extended the deck's life.

Keep all decks clear of debris. Don't let decomposing leaves sit on any deck materials for too long. They will leave stains that can become a struggle to remove later. Allowing leaves to pile up against your house siding like a snowdrift can also damage or rot your siding. Remove branches and debris to check for any damage.

Check the Fasteners

However you fasten your deck, boards can become loose or plugs can come out due to temperature changes.

Cleaning the Deck

When it's time to clean off the dirt and moss that has built up on your wood deck, I recommend hand washing with soap and water, avoiding a pressure washer. A pressure washer will raise the grain on a cedar deck and possibly do the same to a hardwood deck. For composite and PVC decks, a pressure washer works great. Your deck will look new again.

Additional Items

If you have an outdoor living space or other structures on or around your deck, add the following items to your deck checklist.

Summary List:

  • Check deck framing
  • Clean between the decking boards where debris sits on the framing
  • Clear out the gap between the house and the deck
  • Check the railing
  • Check the stairs
  • Inspect the decking boards
  • Check the decking fasteners
  • Clean off the decking
  • Wash the decking

As your Personal Home Contractor, please know Shirey Home Pro is here to assist you with any of your "to-do list" items that you would rather not perform.

Thank you, 
Jon Elkins 

Deck with a metal railing
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