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Building a new deck adds beauty, functionality, and value to your home. However, the wood in that deck can begin to rot in as little as 8-10 years.
What can you do to protect your investment and enjoy your deck longer? This article will discuss five key steps you can take — from adding joist tape during construction to properly maintaining the deck through the years. The steps are not difficult but require some intentionality. Whether you have a new or old deck, you can make it last longer.
Add joist tape during construction.
Water poses the greatest danger to the wood in your deck. When wood stays wet, it can quickly begin to rot and become weaker.
While sealing the decking boards (discussed later in this article) is important, you must also protect the wood that supports those top boards. Joist flashing tape protects your deck’s substructure (joists, beams, ledger boards, and stringers) with a thin, waterproof membrane.
Not only can joist tape give your deck a longer life, but it can also hold deck screws and fasteners tighter and stronger. It also creates a barrier between your treated lumber and galvanized hardware. This is important because the chemicals in these two essential decking elements can interact and cause corrosion.
Joist tape comes in two primary materials: asphalt and butyl. Butyl offers superior protection and ease of installation. This animated video shows how simple it is to install with its peel-and-stick format, even for a DIY homeowner. When installing joist tape, be sure to apply on a day warmer than 40˚F, with dry conditions. Quality butyl tape will not bunch up, bind, or tear as easily during installation as asphalt tape. Check out this comparison on Decks.com
Keep the deck clean.
Because water presents a real danger to wood, you want to remove any debris that can trap moisture on the wood. If you have potted plants on the deck, be sure they are kept on risers so that the dirt and water don’t remain on your deck boards. Regularly sweep away any debris, including leaves. You may need to remove debris between deck boards with a putty knife if the leaves have built up over time.
Once the boards are debris-free, you’ll want to at least annually wash off the boards. It’s best to use warm, soapy water and a garden hose to clean. Power washers may quickly clean off the boards, but they can also chip and splinter wood and composite deck boards. If you do use a power washer, choose a lower pressure setting, keep the nozzle at least 6 to 10 inches above the boards and use a fan tip.
Seal the deck boards.
Wooden deck boards need to be sealed every 2 to 5 years to reduce moisture penetration and rot. With warmer days this summer, it’s a perfect time to seal or stain.
Before you begin sealing, make sure the surface is clean and that you sand down any rough places on the deck. Sweep away the dust after sanding. If you wash off the deck, be sure it’s completely dry before sealing.
Sealing requires some patience. To begin, stir, don’t shake the sealant, which can cause air bubbles to form. Take your time and apply a thin coat. You will likely need to add another coat, but thinner is better. Use a brush, sprayer, or roller and allow the sealant to dry before re-applying.
Consider composite boards.
If you’ve ever lost a holiday weekend sealing your wood deck, you may want to consider composite decking for the future. Composite decks are made to last and require virtually no maintenance. Composite boards should not rot, splinter, or warp — you can enjoy them even with bare feet. Because composite decking is comprised primarily of plastic, it is also insect-proof.
Composite boards come in numerous colors and textures. While they may cost a bit more upfront, the lack of maintenance and the increased durability pays off over time. When comparing composite and wood decking, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Do an annual inspection.
While using joist tape, cleaning and sealing your deck, are important measures to protect your deck’s wood, you also need to regularly inspect it. Use a deck safety checklist to look for problems such as darkened wood, splintering fibers, and signs of insect damage like wood shavings and winged ants. If you find a problem, don’t delay: DIY a solution or call in a professional deck builder and pest control.
Along with a deck inspection, do a visual check of the area surrounding it. Trim back overhanging tree limbs and overgrown shrubs. Climbing vines can be especially problematic, holding moisture on your wood. Prune back vegetation or bring in a professional landscaper to help.
Protecting your deck may require a little bit of work upfront. However, you’ll be glad to have a deck that lasts longer, is safer, and more enjoyable for years to come.