Angie's List: Give new life to your old wood deck

Don't Waste Your Money

Most wood decks are made of pressure-treated pine or red cedar. But if you don't maintain it, it will start to crack, splinter, and eventually rot...raising the risk of collapse.

So our partners at the consumer guide Angie's List say make it a seasonal habit to check for weak spots, signs of wood rot and instability in posts and framework. Don’t let the surface suffer, either.

“You should reseal your deck every two to three years with either a clear or semi-transparent stain,” Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks said. “The easiest way to find out whether it’s time to tackle your deck is to drop some water on it. If it beads up nicely, you can wait a little longer. If it soaks in, it’s time to re-stain.”

Best deck stains

Consumer Reports Magazine's top rated deck stains are:

  • Behr Semi Transparent Wood Stain (Home Depot)
  • Behr Solid Color Waterproofing (Home Depot)
  • Cabot Semi Transparent Wood Stain

Deck-restoring products

If your deck is too far gone for stain, and is cracking and splintering, you can often restore the surface with new deck restoring products. They are 10 times thicker than regular paint, and give it a hard new enamel surface. The most popular include:

  • Behr Deckover (Home Depot)
  • Rustoleum ReStore (Lowe's)

Just make sure you inspect the deck first, to make sure the beams and posts are not rotting. Otherwise you are just putting "lipstick on a pig," and you could still have a dangerous deck beneath the nice new coating.

Power washer caution

This can be a do-it-yourself project, but you can do more damage than good if you’re not careful. Use a power washer, but don’t use too much pressure or spray too close to the wood.

“You want to keep the tip of your power washer at least six inches away from the wood at all times, and you want to keep it pretty much at a constant elevation and always keeping it in motion,” said John Nearon of Exterior Wood Restoration. “If you stop or dwell in an area, you’re likely to leave a mark in the wood that will be very difficult to remove.”

After your power wash, let the deck dry out, then apply the stain or sealer. A penetrating, oil-based stain is usually better than a water-based product that just coats the surface.

If you find problems with your deck, don’t wait to fix it. You, your family and guests will be out there a lot this summer. Don’t risk their safety.

And that way you don't waste your money.

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