Whenever it comes to our homes, we often take them for granted and slack off on necessary routine maintenance. It’s okay. It happens to the best of us. Between work, kids, friends and family, our goals, hobbies, and more, it seems like there are barely enough hours in the day to take care of ourselves, much less the space around us – especially lesser thought of ones like the deck.
However, that can quickly turn into a problem, not only leaving our house’s features underutilized but also potentially falling into disrepair. As the old saying goes – use it or lose it. But how exactly are you supposed to get a deck back from the brink? Here’s everything you need to know to renovate, refinish, and get your deck back in tip-top shape.
Inspecting and Cleaning
No matter how long it’s been since you last took stock of your deck, the first step to getting it like-new again is to simply inspect and clean it. After all, it’s kind of difficult to decide what needs to be done if you haven’t actively looked for the problems. So, keep your eyes sharp and make a mental (or physical) note about anything that seems out of place.
Easy things to watch for right off the bat include loose, rotting, or cracked boards, structural problems, damaged railings, and missing components, just to name a few. It also pays to look at some of the smaller details, like if any nails have backed out that might cause tripping or board movement since those small issues can quickly add up into significant problems later on.
Are you finished with your initial assessment? Go ahead and clean the deck now before going further into the renovation process. Power washing and a little elbow grease will go a long way to making it look all squeaky-clean again, but a good cleaner is still an absolute must. Our suggestion is a good oxygen-based deck cleaner since it’s great at removing both mildew stains and dirt build-up.
Making the Necessary Repairs
Once you’ve surveyed the damage and have cleaned your deck up enough actually to see all its imperfections, you should move on doing your repair work. If the porch hasn’t seen a lot of attention in recent years, the odds are you’ll likely have quite a bit of ground to cover here. Structural damage to joists, posts, and stair stringers isn’t unheard of, so it’s worth doing some double-checking before you write it off. An excellent way to test it is by using a simple screwdriver. If it sinks into a joist or other essential piece, there’s severe damage you’ll need to undo.
As long as that’s not an issue, your focus will largely be on the smaller stuff such as simple board replacements, screw tightening, putting down new nails, reinforcing individual boards or stress points, and replacing railings. Don’t forget to tighten up the fasteners that keep the deck firmly attached to the house, though! It can sometimes get overlooked during this step, so don’t make the same mistake.
Deck Repair: Sanding the Deck
As much as people typically loathe repair work, this is usually the step that really tests people’s patience: sanding. Why? Because it can be rather time-consuming work and work that requires a little more finesse than some might want to put in. This is a particularly relevant issue if your porch is rough and sun-damaged like they tend to get as the years pass by.
It’ll require a great deal of sanding to get things nice and smooth – and you’ll need to be careful. Choose the wrong grit, and you could have pretty terrible results. Too fine, and your deck will be covered in a powdery dust that clogs the “pores,” disallowing your stain from truly settling in and taking. Too coarse, and your deck will probably find itself damaged, which can cause an increased likelihood of breakage, undoing all that awesome repair work you spent time on. It can also make the overall texture uneven, generating its own problems as far as staining is concerned.
The best course of action is to use 60 or 80-grit on mainboards and up to 100 on any railings. Just be sure to use actual tools for this, and don’t leave them on too long to avoid crushing the wood’s cells. Sanding the old-fashioned way might have a time and a place, but it’s not here. An orbital sander or belt sander will be your best friend, cutting down the sanding time (and effort) significantly. Having trouble with that edgework? Try out a palm sander for easy maneuverability.
Staining and Finishing
Ready for the fun part. Well, congratulations, because you’re finally here. With all the biggest practical bits taken care of, you now get to choose your stain and surface sealer. Nowadays, you’ve got a ton of options to pick from, although they can be broken down into four main categories:
- Translucent – Translucent stains are exactly what they say on the tin. They’re translucent, providing protection for your deck while also accentuating its natural wood grain. It’s also mostly a one-coat wonder, providing easy coverage and protection without multiple applications.
- Semi-transparent – A step up from the translucent stuff, this stain provides greater grain consistency and coverage without being too heavy. Maintenance coats force it to lose its transparent status.
- Semi-solid – Pigmentation is more intense here, providing even higher coverage than the semi-transparent.
- Solid – As to be expected, this strain offers a solid type of color similar to paint. It’s ideal for high-contrast coloring and looks fantastic combined with natural finishes. Application is slightly more involved, with two coats required within a day.
Within these broad categories, stains can also be divided into water-based and oil-based. We know – yet another decision under your belt. Want a little guidance? Our suggestion is to go oil-based and ideally with something semi-transparent. It’s a bit messier than the alternative, but it lasts far longer and will provide the right balance between color and wood grain visibility.