5 Tips to Keep Your Wood Deck Looking Its Best

A wood deck is a welcome home addition for many reasons. It’s a nice architectural element, it enhances the backyard and it offers a place for relaxation.

It’s also eco-friendly. Real wood is a renewable building material that’s durable, easy to work with and affordable. Plus, the production of wood decking has minimal environmental impact.

But a deck requires a lot of upkeep. You need to give it a visual inspection at least once a year to make sure it’s in good shape. Otherwise, it won’t last long at all.

Consider this your deck maintenance checklist. Here are the basics to care for your wood deck so it has a long life.

Drive deck nails into deck
Loose nail in your deck? The easiest way to drive it back in is with a makeshift nail set fashioned from a hinge pin.

1. Look for Loose Nails

Deck nails have a way of rising up as the structure ages, causing a serious tripping hazard.

If you see a nail sticking out of a deck board, you have two solutions:

• Drive the nail back into place. (Just make sure the nail isn’t flush, but below, the surface. That way, if the nail pops up a bit, it won’t be in the way.)

Watch ‘How to Fix a Deck with Loose Nails’ for details.

• Replace the nail with coated, rust-resistant deck screws. Deckmate fasteners will stay in place, completely removing the concern about a nail tripping or sticking someone.

Watch ‘Deckmate Fasteners Help You Finish a Job Faster’ for more details.

Deck sap
Sap leaking up from deck boards that were kiln-dried after treatment is common.

2. Check for Sap

Sap that’s loaded with nutrients and minerals is, basically, a tree’s blood, but it’s not uncommon for deck boards to ooze this stuff.

When lumber is kiln-dried, the sap inside crystallizes from the high heat. However, temperature and humidity changes can cause this solid to dissolve — or ooze.

To remove the sap, try submerging the troubled areas with Murphy’s Oil. You can also use WD-40 or acetone, but this method may damage the deck’s finish.

Of course, if weather freezes the sap, you can scrape it off with a putty knife.

Closeup of a pressure washer shooting out water on a deck during a cleaning.
Pressure wash your deck, but don’t linger too long on one spot, or you could cause damage. (DepositPhotos)

3. Clean Your Deck

Wood decks are exposed to the elements year-round and take constant abuse. That’s why cleaning and refinishing them is so important.

First, wear protective eyewear and gloves and apply deck cleaner with a pump sprayer. Let it set for the recommended time, according to the directions.

Next, pressure wash the deck. Give it an even spray and don’t linger on one area for too long or you could damage the deck. Let everything dry before refinishing.

Closeup of a man's hand holding a paintbrush as he stains a wood deck
Apply deck stain with a pump sprayer, but always ‘back brush’ — go back and smooth everything out — with a paint brush. (Credit: ©Sayayute, Adobe Stock Photos)

4. Refinish the Deck

You’d be surprised how many homeowners don’t know that they need to regularly refinish their deck. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a must for anyone who owns a wood deck.

There are two options: tinted deck stain or clear sealer. Solid deck stains hide the grain of the wood; semitransparent shades allow the wood grain to show through.  

Stains and sealers are much thinner than paint, so you can apply them using a pump sprayer as well. Just go over the entire deck with a paintbrush to spread everything evenly.

Watch, ‘How to Clean and Finish a Wood Deck’ for more information.

Danny Lipford removes rotting deck boards from summer home
Sometimes, no matter how well you maintain your deck, you just have to replace old boards.

5. Replace Old Decking

No matter how well you maintain a wood deck, you can’t avoid the inevitable: rot and deterioration. If you’ve got badly cracked, warped or rotting wood, you need to just replace the old deck boards with new ones.

Watch ‘How to Remove and Replace Wood Decking’ for more information.


  1. our decks are about 5 years old. Our problem is that the Sherwin Williams deck treatment keeps peeling on certain boards. We are 1 year into the recoat and it is doing it again. Doesn’t seem to matter whether it is covered or open. Any suggestions?

  2. We love wood but our redwood front porch, which was here when we moved in 3 years ago, was beyond repair. The wood decking was all warped and the support beams underneath were rotten and not supporting the deck. Not safe for us or our grandkids who loved playing out there. We debated for several months then tore the deck off last summer and had it replaced this summer with cement and a decorative steel railing. Looks beautiful in front of our blond brick home, is waterproof and needs no maintenance. It may not be for everyone but we’re VERY happy with our decision.

    • Many folks choose alternatives to wood decking for the reasons you mentioned, S & B.
      They choose composite decking or concrete for its low maintenance and durability.
      Thanks for sharing your experience!


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