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Portland Decking Q&A: When to Stain, and Other Post-Construction Tips

cedar deck installationSo you’ve taken the plunge and are enjoying the glow of a new cedar deck in the backyard. The next question on many homeowners’ minds is how to keep their decking looking as good as when it was installed.

Deck maintenance is seldom a fun chore, but it’s an important part of protecting your investment. A well-built cedar deck can increase your home’s value by up to 80.6% of the project cost, so it pays to keep your cedar decking in top shape. Following are some post-construction tips for taking care of your new cedar deck.

When should I stain my new deck?

Applying a high-quality deck stain should be your first order of business after installing your new decking. The stain protects the wood from the elements and slows down the natural deterioration process, so it’s important not to let too much time pass before you give your deck its first coat.

You should however, let your deck dry out in warm, sunny weather for a few days before applying a stain, as newly installed cedar contains too much moisture for the stain to penetrate properly. This can be a challenge in the Pacific Northwest; after installing their new decks, Portland homeowners often have to wait for a stretch of nice weather.

If you build a deck in the winter, it may be spring before you can stain it, but don’t worry – rain isn’t your biggest concern. The hot summer sun does the worst damage to wood, so as long as you stain before summer arrives, you’re covered.

How often should I restain?

In the Pacific Northwest, it’s generally recommended that you restain your deck every other year. However, in some cases, an annual application may be required. To test the life of your deck stain, spray your deck with a garden hose and pay attention to whether the water beads up or soaks into the wood. If it soaks in, your stain needs refreshing.

What other annual maintenance should I perform?

Deck inspection.
At least once a year, thoroughly inspect your decking for any maintenance issues that need to be addressed, such as squeaky, sagging or rotting boards. Walk over the entire surface to make sure everything feels stable.

  • Inspect all areas where wood is in direct contact with wood. This includes where joists connect with beams and where beams connect with posts.
  • Check the ledger board that connects the deck to your home. Look for signs of a weakened connection or that the deck is pulling away from the house.
  • Keep an eye out for water stains, as these areas are likely exposed to regular moisture and could become problems in the future.
  • Spot-check your decking for rot at key structural points by using a screwdriver to apply pressure to the wood. If the wood feels soft, it may be rotting.
  • Pound any popped nails back in.

Cleaning. A thorough cleaning every year will help prevent problems such as mold growth, premature rot and insect infestations. Use a putty knife to remove debris that has been lodged between deck boards, sweep off any dirt or leaves, and wash the entire structure with a deck cleaner. (Avoid or use extreme caution with power washers, as these can damage the soft wood of a cedar deck.)

Board replacement. Rotting deck boards pose a safety hazard and should be replaced as soon as they’re discovered. With the right tools, this can be a DIY job, or you can consult a Portland decking professional.

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