While a deck is the prime place for outdoor entertaining, chances are the weather has taken its toll on the wood surface. Whether your deck is just plain old or has recently been installed, find out how to get your deck ready for entertaining and protect it well beyond the barbecue season.

Tools and Materials:

You will need the following:

  • pump-up garden sprayer
  • garden hose
  • pressure washer
  • hammer
  • nails
  • pry bar
  • deck cleaning solution
  • sealant/stain
  • paint brush, roller or paint sprayer

Clearing and Minor Repairs

Completely clear the deck of furniture and accessories and sweep away any large debris. Inspect for damage and use an appropriate stain remover to lift any grill or dirt stains. Protruding nail heads should be tapped back in place so that you are not setting yourself or someone else up for an injury.

Examine the deck for any rotten wood; this is especially important for decks that sit in the shade. Be sure to check under decking boards and on the underside of stair treads for wood rot which tends to occur in places that are hard to see. Areas of wood with extensive rotting, cracking or warping should be replaced. These will have to be measured and cut to the appropriate length.

Clean The Surface

Once you’ve got the minor repairs under your belt, you’ll need to clean the surface of the deck. Generally a cleaning solution will help get rid of tough dirt and grime and improve your decks ability to soak up a new stain or sealer. Before applying any cleaning solutions read the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations.

For some solutions, it may be necessary to first wet the deck and surrounding areas before application. Several deck washes contain bleach and other ingredients that may be harmful to plants so it’s a good idea to cover them with a plastic drop cloth. Some deck cleaners can clean and restore natural beauty to gray, weathered wood without bleach, so it’s safe for use around plants and shrubs.

Fill your pump-up garden sprayer with the deck wash and apply the solution first to the rails and benches.

If you do not have a pump-up garden sprayer a mop or even a watering can will do the job. You can also apply the cleaner by hand with a stiff bristled brush, just be sure to wear rubber gloves.

Once the cleaner has set for the appropriate amount of time, rinse it off with a pressure washer. A pressure washer will speed up the process and give improved results if used correctly. Too much pressure used to close to the wood will often splinter the wood. Too little pressure and you might as well use your water hose. After cleaning the deck let it dry for at least 48 hours.

Stains and Sealants

When at last your deck looks new again you’ll need to protect it from future water and sun damage. Stains and sealants are almost as abundant as smoking grills on the fourth of July. Just remember when choosing a sealant to make sure that it contains a water-repellant, a UV blocker, and maybe even an insecticide to keep wood-eating bugs from harming your deck.

Clear sealants will allow the natural color of your deck to shine through while semi-transparent sealants and stains allow you to add a hint of color to your deck, while still permitting the natural grain of the wood to show through. Read the product labels carefully for information about how the sealant will perform. Each will give recommendations on how often you’ll need to reseal or restain.

Stains and sealants can be applied by using a brush, paint roller, or sprayer. Spraying is by far the fastest method. Work the entire length of a deck board until you reach a logical break such as a door frame. Follow the sprayer with a brush and back brush to avoid puddles. Keep a wet edge to decrease the chance of lapping. Usually, two coats of stain or sealer are recommended.

Wood Deck Alternatives

If you’re tired of the routine maintenance required of a wood deck, consider replacing your deck boards with composite decking, which is made from a mixture of wood and plastic. Composite decking never needs to be sanded, stained, or sealed and is guarded against UV weathering, insect damage, rotting, and warping.

Although initially more expensive than wood, composite decking offers large savings over time due to reduced maintenance costs.

Regardless of the direction you decide to take your deck improvements taking care of initial deck maintenance and repairs now will give you more time to relax, sip some iced tea and enjoy your outdoor living area before the fireworks begin.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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