DO seal your wooden deck every few years.
Save yourself some hassle and choose a one-step product that combines stain and sealer.
DON’T sand your wooden deck before sealing unless it’s really necessary.
This step is only a good idea if your deck’s surface has become too rough for comfort, because it adds several steps to your finishing process.
DO rearrange furniture at least once a year.
This is especially important in mildew-prone areas of the country, because furnishings and rugs tend to trap moisture underneath.
DON’T paint your deck if you can help it.
Priming and painting is always a two-step process, and any moisture trapped underneath will come through at some point. Painting wood creates maintenance that you absolutely must do no matter what. Where a stain simply fades — and can be replaced as needed with one coat of the right product — paint will chip and flake and is a pain to redo.
DON’T feel obligated to seal your patio.
If you want a wet look all the time, then seal your hardscape, but you’re creating maintenance, because you’ll have to reseal your patio every two years. Natural materials like slate and bluestone actually tend to self-seal under foot traffic and don’t need the extra layer of protection unless you simply like the glossy aesthetic.
DON’T go overboard washing your deck.
Normal wear and tear plus constant pounding by the sun’s UV rays takes its toll on the wood’s surface, and if you scrub or power wash too forcefully — or even just wash with water too often — you can actually cause further damage. Plus, if you live in a damp climate, introducing too much moisture into the wood can lead to warping and splitting. Wash only when there’s visible grime, stick to plain water from a hose when possible, and save power washing for every few years during the sealing process.
DON’T overdo washing a stone patio, either.
Natural stone tends to flake, and overzealous washing can actually wear the surface away. It’s best to wash as needed rather than on a regular schedule. Use a mild household detergent occasionally if you see heavy grime or stains; stubborn stains and mildew can be removed with a very dilute mix of muriatic acid and water. (Muriatic acid is available at hardware, big-box or pool-supply stores; be sure to wear protective gear as you work with it.)
DO be careful with power washing.
Too much pressure can damage wood and stone surfaces. To be safe, it’s best to hire a licensed, bonded, insured pro to do your power washing—and be sure to seal your wooden deck right afterward.
DON’T use a wire brush to scrub stains off wood, concrete or stone.
It’s overkill and can damage surfaces.
DO sweep away debris regularly.
Trapped dirt and leaves lead to mold, rot and stains — prevention is always better than the cure.
DON’T use chlorine bleach to clean your deck or patio.
It can alter the color of your deck material. Again, start with the mildest options first — even plain water — and work your way up to products designed specifically for the job.
DON’T get harsh cleaners on nearby plants.
When you’re absorbed in getting your deck in tip-top shape, it’s easy to forget that your garden plants are in the line of fire. If you have a lush landscape near your deck, drape plantings with a sheet as you work and choose the mildest cleaning solution first — say, dish soap or baking soda — before you try harsher chemicals.
DO fix nail pops, split wood and missing boards promptly.
If your deck was installed properly, you shouldn’t have a whole lot of that going on, but wood expands and contracts as it ages, so anywhere there’s a span of wood, like a handrail or floorboard, you might get some creaking or something coming loose. Screw everything down properly and sand any sharp splinters as soon as you find them, as small problems have a way of becoming bigger problems over time.
DON’T ignore stress points like railings and stairs.
A periodic check for signs of rot, excessive movement and structural problems is always a good idea. Wood can warp and split along its natural grain and cause a safety issue before you realize anything has gone wrong.