With all the things you’re doing to get ready for a long and snowy winter (assuming you live in a state like New Jersey, where winters tend to be harsh), the last thing you’re probably thinking about is your outdoor deck. Things like winterizing your vehicles, tuning up your furnace, and updating your winter wardrobe are far more important — right?
Well, yes and no. Obviously your deck is not the most pressing issue you face when it comes to getting ready for the cold season. However, it does represent a sizeable investment and an important aspect of your property. Many homeowners tend to forget about their outdoor decks and assume that very little maintenance or preventative maintenance is required. The result is that problems begin to develop sooner than they should. Repairs might become necessary. In extreme cases, it might be necessary to resurface or completely rebuild an outdoor deck due to negligence.
Don’t get us wrong — the average winter conditions aren’t going to wreak havoc on a new outdoor deck. But over time, extreme weather will definitely play a part in wearing down a deck, both in terms of structure and appearance.
The question is, should homeowners do anything to “winterize” their outdoor decks? What kind of maintenance should be considered during the cold winter months? Knowing the answer is important for homeowners who want to get the most out of their investments, and protect their decks as long as possible against the elements.
The answer to the first question is yes — homeowners should take some time to get their outdoor decks ready for winter. Fortunately, this doesn’t involve much at all, and can be accomplished in a short amount of time.
The first order of business is to conduct a thorough inspection of the deck. This includes surveying the entire structure for loose or damaged boards, loose attachments (screws, bolts, etc.), and other structural issues. In many cases, loose attachments can be dealt with safely using ordinary tools. In other cases, a professional should be called in to address repair issues that are discovered during the winterization process.
Once everything has been inspected, and the deck “checks out,” the next step is to carefully sweep and clean the deck. After a good and complete sweep, the deck should be washed with a gentle non-bleach cleaner or soap, along with water. This step depends on what type of decking you have (natural hardwood, composite, etc.) and you should always follow the instructions of the manufacturer and/or the contractor who installed the deck.
A third step is to protect your deck with a special sealant or water-resistant coating, so that the constant presence of moisture (snow in various stages of melting and freezing) does not affect your deck structurally. Again this depends on the type of decking you have.
Shoveling is another common maintenance activity during the winter, and it’s a great way to keep the deck protected, dry, and looking great. One piece of advice, however: when shoveling, keep the shovel going parallel with the direction of the boards, rather than perpendicular. This will prevent scratching and damage to the boards as you shovel.
Outdoor deck maintenance for the winter months is easy when you know what to do — and when spring comes, you’ll be glad you took the right steps!