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Deck Maintenance: What to Do After a Storm

cedar deckThe Pacific Northwest has already had a couple of decent storms so far this season, but if you’re familiar with the area, you know that the best is yet to come. Composite decking material and cedar decking handle winter weather differently, but there are some general guidelines to help your decking weather a storm. Following are a few deck maintenance tips to help you take care of your deck after a storm, no matter what type of decking material you have.

Take Stock of the Damage

The first rule of thumb when cleaning up after a storm is to be careful. It’s tempting to start getting things back to normal right away, but your first step should always be to survey your yard and your deck to determine what needs to be done and whether it’s safe to begin work. Take notice of any hanging branches and fallen or leaning trees in your yard, especially on or near your decking. If you see any downed or sagging power lines near your yard, do not attempt to touch the lines themselves or anything else nearby. Call your power company immediately to report the issue.

Once you know the yard is safe, check your decking to make sure the entire structure is in good condition. Check for any loose decking material and any raised nails. Loose decking material should be re-secured, and any nails that are sticking up should be hammered back in or replaced with deck screws. Examine all handrails and steps to ensure nothing is shaky or loose. Finally, check the support posts to make sure they are still firmly in place and not showing any signs of rotting.

Clear Your Deck of Debris

Next, you’ll want to clear any debris or standing water left on your decking after the storm. Piles of mud, leaves, needles, branches and pooled water can contribute to rot or mold and mildew growth on your deck. Some leaves and plant materials can also stain your deck if allowed to sit for a period of time.

You can either sweep debris off your deck with an outdoor broom, give your decking a thorough hosing. If you decide to hose off the deck, be sure to clear off or dry up any excess water when done. Also, clear the spaces or crevices between deck boards to keep debris from gathering in those tight spots.

Power washing should be avoided or used with extreme caution, as the strength of a power wash can damage your decking material. While composite decking material can be more resistant to mold and mildew growth than cedar decking material, it is not impervious to moisture, and you should still perform regular cleanings to make sure your decking stays tip top.

Remove Snow and Ice

If it happens to snow, you will want to promptly remove any built-up snow from your decking. Using a broom to sweep off snow is recommended, as this method causes the least damage to your decking – but you can also use a plastic snow shovel if you prefer. Make sure to shovel along the boards instead of across them, as this can help to prevent marks and gouges in your decking. For composite decking, you can try using rock salt to melt the ice or snow, as long as you make sure to rinse off any residue. Do not use salt or de-icers on a cedar deck.

Prevent Additional Damage

One thing many of the tips listed above have in common is the idea of prevention. Follow these tips, and you can help prevent major damage to your decking over time. If you want to get even more proactive, the best way to prepare for the rainy season is to apply a waterproofing sealer or stain to your cedar deck. Once the weather starts to become wetter, you will want to remove any potted plants from your decking, as these tend to create spots of pooling water, which can lead to mold and mildew whether you have a cedar deck or composite decking material. You should also check your decking material for any cracks, and promptly repair any you find. If water is allowed to seep into cracks, and then freezes, this will cause the cracks to expand and become much larger come springtime.

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