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Winterizing Your Deck

cedar deckFall has finally arrived, and that means winter is just around the corner. If you’re like most people, you probably have a whole list of things you do in order to prepare for winter’s harsh weather. You weatherize your windows. You clean your yard. You make sure your pipes are properly insulated. You do all these things, but when was the last time you winterized your cedar deck?

Cedar decks can suffer a great deal of weather damage during the winter months. Rain, snow and cold temperatures can take their toll on even the toughest decks. Luckily, there are a few easy preparations you can make to ensure your beautiful cedar deck doesn’t end up looking old and worn out come spring. Here are some of the most common ways to winterize a cedar deck:

Clean

It may seem like a no-brainer, but many people don’t adequately clean their decks before winter. Dirt and yard debris can decompose and cause a great deal of damage to the decking material. Washing your deck with a hose and scrub-broom will help reduce the amount of decaying matter in the wood fibers and cut back on the structural damage that can happen to your deck during the winter months. It will also improve the ventilation between boards, which will help keep your deck dry and clean.

Remove Mold and Mildew

Getting rid of pesky mold and mildew can be a real hassle, but it can save you big problems down the road. Much like yard debris, molds and mildews grow in tiny cracks and crevices in the wood and can cause major damage if left untreated. There are a number of great mold removal products available, but you should consult an expert before applying any to your deck.

Clean and Move Planters

It’s okay to keep planters in one spot during the warm, dry months of summer, but during winter it’s a different story. Moisture from rain, snow and the air can cause planters to leach into the wood and stain it, leaving behind unattractive rings and boxes on your decking material. The best idea is to move planters into a garage or shed during winter. If that’s not possible, try storing them under the deck.

Reapply Finish If Needed

A harsh winter can destroy a finish on a cedar or composite deck. If your deck’s finish is fading or otherwise on its last leg, it would be a good idea to strip the wood and refinish the deck before winter hits. Refinishing a deck may seem like a big chore, but rain, snow, wind and harsh temperatures can wreak havoc on unprotected wood. Better to get it done now than have to try to fix the problem later.

Apply Water-Repellant Seal

You can never be too careful with a cedar deck. Applying a high-quality water-repellant seal is an absolute must if you live in an area that gets a lot of wet winter weather. Check with your decking expert or a hardware store representative to find the best deck stain to use on your deck.

Cover

If you live in a place that experiences extreme winter weather, you may want to cover your deck with a sturdy plastic tarp or insulation material. If you do this, make sure there aren’t any areas where water can pool – this can lead to mold and mildew problems. If you can’t completely cover the deck you may want to scrap the idea entirely. Done correctly, however, and a deck cover can help cedar and composite decks make it through even the worst winter weather.

Yes, preparing a cedar or composite deck for winter can seem like a daunting task. Cleaning, moving planters, refinishing and applying repellant are all annoying tasks, but by doing them you are saving yourself a world of problems in the future. A properly winterized deck can look just as good in the spring as it did the fall before, but only if you’re willing to put the work in.

~Ben Nystrom, 2010

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