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Top 10 Deck Mistakes Homeowners Make

Building a new deck is a big investment in your home, and an important concern for many homeowners is how to prolong the life of their decking materials. Portland contractors often recommend guidelines for using and caring for your cedar decking, but sometimes mistakes happen.

A significant amount of maintenance and care is required to extend the life of your cedar deck. Portland homeowners must constantly battle the rain, sun and other harsh weather. Sometimes, however, a deck’s worst enemy can be the owners themselves. Following are ten of the most common mistakes homeowners make when using or maintaining their cedar decking:

1. Overzealous pressure washing. The pressure washer is a favorite tool for many homeowners. It’s invaluable for deep-cleaning large areas such as driveways and siding, and some homeowners also like to use it to clean their decking materials. Portland residents should beware when pressure washing a deck, however. Too much pressure or holding the wand too close to your deck can strip away wood from the deck’s surface, leaving permanent gouges or streak marks. If you must pressure wash, use the lowest pressure setting, go slowly, and keep the wand at least a foot away from your deck at all times.

2. Not staining regularly. Deck stain is your cedar decking’s first line of defense against the sun, rain and other elements that can destroy untreated wood. Fading, cracking and eventual rot can all result from failing to stain your cedar deck. Portland homeowners should apply a quality deck stain at least every few years, or whenever the stain begins to lose its effectiveness.

3. Applying varnish. Many deck owners think that if staining is good, varnishing is even better. However, applying varnish over a coat of stain is a common deck maintenance mistake. Varnish doesn’t hold up well under outdoor use, as it has poor resistance to sunlight and moisture. Before too long, the varnish will begin to peel, requiring you to strip off the entire coating. A good stain will offer all of the protection your cedar decking needs; if you’re still concerned, just add a second coat.

4. Not using a grill pad. Grills have become such a common fixture on Portland decks that homeowners often don’t think about the damage they can cause. Grease splatters, oil spills and other grilling incidents can stain or damage your decking materials. Portland homeowners should place a heat-resistant grill pad or splatter mat beneath the grill to catch spills.

5. Leaving deck furniture out all winter. Your deck just isn’t an outdoor living space without weatherproof patio furniture to lounge on. However, leaving your deck furniture out all year, especially during the rainy season, can allow water to pool underneath, causing your cedar decking to stain or rot. Protect your decking materials by removing your furniture and potted plants before winter.

6. Not making repairs promptly. With regular use, deck boards can begin to crack and nails or screws can come loose. Both problems are easily rectified if addressed early on; letting them languish, however, will lead to additional issues down the road. Inspect your cedar decking regularly, and make any needed repairs as soon as possible.

7. Cleaning with household bleach. When it comes to getting rid of mold and mildew growth on a cedar deck, homeowners often reach for the household bleach, which is undoubtedly effective at killing mold. However, chlorine bleach also breaks down the lignin in your cedar decking (that’s the glue that holds the wood fibers together), causing your deck’s surface to deteriorate. Instead, use oxygen bleach for cleaning and an oxalic acid deck brightener for restoring the wood’s bright appearance.

8. Not replacing missing balusters. The railing system is an important safety feature of your deck, as it helps prevent accidents and injuries. When a baluster (one of the spindles attached to the handrail) breaks, it’s important to replace it promptly.

9. Not checking for stability. According to the Home Safety Council, half of all decks in the United States are in danger of collapse. When a deck collapses, most of the people on it will experience injury or death. Prevent your cedar decking from becoming the next statistic by routinely inspecting your cedar decking for stability – preferably at each changing of the season.

10. Not spending enough time on their decks. Let’s face it: Most of us are too busy to spend as much time as we’d like enjoying the outdoors from our cedar decks. So what are you doing still reading? Get outside and enjoy the summer sun!

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