The signs are all around: blooms, birds, and barbecue. It’s time to get your deck ready for summer! Who’s ready?
Now’s the time to take a few steps to add comfort, enhance beauty, and stop wood rotting before it starts. Here are five steps you must take to be deck-ready before summer arrives.
1. Clean and Seal the Deck
If you have a composite deck, prep is pretty simple: sweep and hose off the boards, and you’re good to go. But if you have a wood deck, you must protect those fibers so they last longer. Here’s how:
— Once you have swept away the debris — you may need to use a putty knife to get out the grime between the boards — you need to wash the deck.
— Avoid pressure washers that can cause damage to the wood fibers. Instead, use a long-handled brush and hose, along with a cleaning solution made for deck boards. If you use a power washer, choose a low setting and a fan tip.
— Allow the wood to dry completely (24-48 hours).
— Then, stain and or seal the wood boards. A stain can help hide imperfections in older wood, while a clear sealant will let your wood’s natural beauty shine through.
— With stain or seal, it’s best to do thin coats and reapply as needed. Remember to stir, never shake, sealant, as this can cause unwanted bubbles.
— Again, allow 24-48 hours for the stain or seal to completely dry before you move furniture and deck accessories back onto your boards.
— With wood decks, you’ll need to stain or seal every couple of years. If you’re not sure if you need to do this, put a few drops of water on your boards. If the water beads on top of the board, you have a little more time. If the water seeps into the wood, you need to seal it soon to avoid wood rot and damage.
2. Inspect the Deck
Before you have people come over for a grill, be sure your deck is safe for the company. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 33,000 people per year are injured because of the structural failure or collapse of a deck, porch, railing, or staircase. Avoid these dangers, and run through a deck safety checklist:
— Do you see rusted screws or fasteners?
— Are there signs of insect damage such as wood shavings? You should be especially concerned if you have an older deck.
— Do you see any cracks, especially in the middle of a deck-joist span?
— Is any wood darker or more discolored than the rest? As this could state wood rot.
— Are any railings loose or shaky?
— Are any boards spongy or loose?
— Do you see signs of mold or mildew?
While a handy homeowner can address some of these issues, it’s often best to bring in a professional for a thorough inspection and repair. If your deck is older, you may need to consider a replacement.
3. Mind the Green
Trees and shrubs around your deck can offer lovely shade and a nice wind block. But dangerous overhanging limbs and vegetation that climbs along your wood can cause damage. Crawling vines, especially, can hold moisture and cause wood to rot faster. You may want to prune the plants yourself or bring in a professional. While you’re considering the greenery around your deck, now is a great time to fill your planters with beautiful blooms for the summer. Be sure to put the pots on risers or plant stands to keep moisture off your deck boards. Here are a few tips for your container gardens:
— Fill your containers with quality potting soil; don’t use dirt from your yard, which will harden when dry.
— Be sure to follow guidelines for sunlight and watering. For example, if your deck is not shaded, choose plants that will grow well in full sun.
— Plant in layers. As Better Homes & Gardens advises, include “a showy plant (thriller), a bushy medium-sized plant (filler), and a trailing blooming plant (spiller).”
— Water frequently and fertilize regularly.
— Pinch off faded blooms.
4. Create Comfort
Take stock of your deck furnishing and whether they are inviting for an afternoon of lounging. If not, invest in new furniture or cushions. Hang a hammock or swing. Create a dining space for guests. Don’t forget the accessories — beautiful lanterns, overhead lighting, pops of color in pillows and rugs, and fun tchotchke that expresses your style.
5. Fire up the Grill
Nothing tastes better than dinner fresh off the barbecue. Yet, it’s crucial to clean and ready your grilling appliances for the new season. Make sure you’re supplied with propane or charcoal. Also, take safety precautions:
— Watch for heavy winds, and position the grill several feet away from your house and furnishings.
— Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
— Quickly clean up any spills from grease or food. Make sure your drip pan is in good working order and not overflowing.
— Place your grill on a fire-resistant mat.
— Use high-quality grill brushes to clean up between cookouts.
Summer will be here before you know it. Get ready to have a great one out on the deck!