Ask the Deckspert
Q: What's going to be hot this year for decks and other outdoor spaces?
Everything 'green' is in—and I don't mean the color. People are demanding environmentally sensitive products in all parts of their homes. This includes sustainably harvested wood for new decking. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on the label of the decking you choose. This ensures that the wood is cut responsibly, with an eye toward keeping delicate forest habitats healthy for the long run.
Also, the trend of 'bringing the indoors out' will persist in deck design and accessories. Look for increasing quality and an expanding range of colors and styles for items like outdoor rugs and furniture. Outdoor lighting is also benefiting from this trend – watch for weatherproof solar lighting which looks more like the table and standing lamps used in your living room.
Q: What's the most common mistake people make in caring for their decks?
In a word—procrastination. Putting off the cleaning and waterproofing spells trouble for your deck in the long run, and costs you more time and money. Sure, you may not see obvious signs of deterioration right away, but you can be certain that water is finding its way into the surface of unprotected wood. Save yourself work and expense, and take care of any necessary deck care projects now.
I'd like to add there are more than 21 million wood fences in America, and I would guess the significant majority of them are unprotected. A wood fence can be cleaned and treated the same way that you would a deck. Since they're vertical surfaces and not subject to foot traffic, a fence may not need to be treated as often as a deck.
Taking care of the wood outside of your home – i.e., decks and fences – is actually a step toward 'green' home improvement, because it helps the wood last longer.
Q: How do you know a deck—or fence—is ready to be treated?
For a new deck, protect the wood as soon as possible after the decking is laid. Since treated lumber often comes from the factory damp, many waterproofers suggest allowing the wood to dry for up to two months before treating. However, Thompson's® WaterSeal® Advanced Waterproofers can be applied immediately to new pressure-treated lumber. Since water and sunlight can begin to damage wood right away, this is a valuable bonus for your deck.
For an existing deck, try the 'splash' test. Sprinkle water on different areas of the deck. If the wood absorbs the water and turns darker in color within five seconds, then the wood is porous and needs to be treated. If water beads up or otherwise sits on top of the wood, then it does not need protection at this time.
Q: What are the secrets to making your deck look beautiful?
The good news is that there aren't hidden, 'professional' secrets. Any homeowner can keep their deck looking great. One of the best things you can do for an older deck is a good cleaning. It will take off years of dirt, mildew stains and old coatings and restore the wood's natural color. Choose a cleaner that matches the condition of your deck, then follow the directions. (Check out "It's Tool Time on Deck" to learn about your options when working with deck cleaners and waterproofers). If you properly clean the deck, then applying the waterproofer will go quickly.
Q: Any time-saving or labor-saving hints to share?
It used to be that you'd clean your deck one day and then have to wait several days for the deck to completely dry before waterproofing. Now you have a faster option. Thompson's® WaterSeal® Advanced Wood Protectors can be applied to damp wood, so the cleaning and waterproofing can be done in one day.
I recycle and re-use materials whenever possible, but you might want to investigate a few new tools if it has been a while since you worked on your deck. There are some interesting new products out in the past few years, like a long-handled paint pad with a tank that dispenses your coating – no more back and forth to the paint tray. And today, you can get a lightweight pressure washer with all the power you need to clean your deck for under $200.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to read the directions on any product or tool that you're using, and follow them. It's always faster to do it right the first time. (Check out the step by step project instructions on How To Clean & Protect Your Deck.)