Decks and wooden porches need routine maintenance

A deck can be a beautiful asset to a home — almost an outdoor room. However, a deck that’s in desperate need of a facelift, with peeling paint and popping nails isn’t usually something you want to entertain on.

Last Saturday we talked about deck safety. And of course, safety is always your primary concern.

Once you know your deck is sound, see if it could use a little sprucing up. With the July 4 weekend coming, you still have time — weather permitting — to get yours shipshape before entertaining.


If you haven’t given your deck much attention for awhile, it might be hard to remember where you should start.

If you plan to repaint or reseal your deck, the proper preparation is key.

Generally, all wood decks need to be cleaned with soapy water as well as with some bleach to kill any mold or mildew. There are also numerous “deck cleaner” products available from your local hardware store that have the same ingredients pre-mixed, but you will still have to scrub to get the job done right.

If your deck is painted, but not peeling, add TSP, a super cleaner, and Dawn soap into a bucket of hot scrubbing water. This will etch the old painted surfaces and help the new paint to stick better to the old. Or, the product 30 Seconds can also give you a clean deck with just a little elbow grease.

For peeling painted surfaces you can use a power washer to get it all off, but use a lot of caution. As we have stated before, power washers can do lots of damage to wood surfaces as well as driving water into the cells of the wood. That means a much longer drying period will be required before you can apply a finish surface, such as primer and paint. So go easy with a wide fan spray tip!

Indeed, peeling paint is usually caused by trapped moisture and improper preparation of the wood.

For example, the wood could be too green to paint. Moisture held in the cells of the wood needs time to evaporate. The rule of thumb is to let the wood turn gray and thoroughly dry to the touch. Then you should be able to prime and paint.

Avoid painting pre-treated deck wood. Instead, use a stain or clear sealer. Seek the manufacturer’s directions for best results.


A thorough wash can extend the life of the paint job on the exterior of your house. The same is true for a stained or painted deck.

A good scrubbing every couple of months with just soapy water works wonders. Add a little bleach to maintain mildew resistance. Rinse thoroughly and watch out for your plants. Also, make sure you wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and as much rubber clothing that you need to keep the chlorine off your clothes and skin. Rinse off any nearby plants.


Each winter many decks in our area get a light, slippery film. That film is likely mold or mildew and needs a soapy-bleach water scrub and good rinse.

Also, slippery surface pockets can occur if you seal your deck with a clear sealer and leave puddles off the sealer. If your sealer hasn’t soaked into the wood after 15 minutes, it never will. So take a rag and mop up the puddles. If this cleaning method does not work, use the power washer with care.


If your old cedar deck is beginning to look tacky, you may want to consider replacing it with a composite deck, such as “Trex.” First, read the code on deck requirements and make sure to bring lots of money to the lumber store.

The composite material itself doesn’t support mold, mildew or bugs. However, over time the dirt and grime in our air or fertilizers that have been spilled or over-sprayed onto the deck’s surfaces will get moldy if allowed to accumulate. If it looks greenish, bleach it, otherwise just gently power wash it annually, no sealers required.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner or one of our contractors? We have rehab loan funds at tailored rates! Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.