Who needs another complicated decision in their life? It seems like simplification is the most desirable thing these days, especially if you’re a homeowner. The more you can simplify and economize your list of home projects and maintenance issues, the better it is for you and your family.
Outdoor decks are an amenity that millions of American homeowners enjoy every year, and for good reason. They provide vital square footage for entertaining and relaxing. They also provide an attractive and functional “transitional space” between the interior of the home and the exterior.
But what about maintenance? Are outdoor decks complicated to maintain? Do I need to apply sealant to my deck, and if so, how often? These are common questions from homeowners, whether they’ve built a new deck, had a deck resurfaced, or have purchased a home with an existing deck and want to know how to take care of it.
Natural wood or composite?
Let’s address this question first, since more and more people are going for composite decking these days. Everyone knows that composite decking is supposed to be low maintenance — so does it require sealant or not?
The short answer is that composite decking generally does not require sealant. However, if you don’t seal a composite deck, you’ll need to clean it thoroughly at least once a year. It’s important to realize that you can apply sealant to most types of outdoor decking, and doing so will minimize your cleaning and maintenance requirements over the short term.
In terms of natural wood deck, regular sealant is highly recommended in order to protect the wood against rain, wind, snow, dirt and other elements. Not doing so can cause your deck to age rapidly, taking years off the “life expectancy” of your deck.
Stains versus sealants
There’s quite a bit of confusion about stains and sealants, and which one is right for a given deck. The answer is quite simple. Solid and semi-transparent stains offer a high degree of protection for your wood, but also a degree of coloration. Transparent stains may alter the color slightly, but do not offer much protection.
Sealants, on the other hand, do not color the wood at all. They do, however, provide waterproofing and protection against rot, warping, splitting and other common problems with natural wood decking.
How often to apply stains and sealants?
Stains generally give you two or three years of solid coloration and protection from the elements before they need to be renewed. Sealants provide one season of protection, and homeowners who are serious about protecting their decks will usually apply sealant to a natural hardwood deck once a year.
Where to get your questions answered
Best maintenance practices can be a little confusing when it comes to hardwood and composite decks of different varieties. There are so many different types of decking material today that it can be hard to know exactly what to do. The best course of action is to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions (if you know who manufactured your decking material), or to consult an outdoor deck specialist who can tell you with greater clarity how to protect your deck through the seasons with a minimum of hassle.