How Do I Maintain a Wooden Deck?

Paul Pogue
Written by Paul Pogue
Updated December 17, 2021
covered wooden deck outdoor furniture
Eric Audras / ONOKY via Getty Images

Wooden decks can deteriorate quickly without proper care and regular maintenance. Cleaning, staining and sealing a deck after pressure washing will add years to its lifespan

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How Do I Maintain a Wooden Deck?

Wooden decks make great outdoor features, but they need to be maintained if you want to keep them. They take a lot of abuse from regular use, foot traffic, and constant exposure to the elements. Both sunlight and rain take their toll, which can warp wood, bend planks, or attract pollen and fungal spores that cause further damage.

Regular deck maintenance, staining and sealing, pressure washing, and everyday care make a big difference in your wood deck’s lifespan and prevent common deck problems. Whether treating a deck or just keeping it clean, follow these steps to ensure the longest life!

How to Treat Deck Wood When It's New

Give your deck the best start for a long life by treating it properly at the beginning. If your deck installer hasn’t already made these arrangements, start setting them up now:

  • Hire a pressure washer. Have the deck professionally cleaned to kill any mildew spores and remove surface impurities that may prevent deck sealing products from penetrating.

  • Hire a local deck refinishing professional to stain and seal the deck with a waterproof sealer. Be sure to wait at least 60 days after the wooden deck is built before you do this. Wood needs to “age” first.

  • Even pressure treated wood needs to be sealed. The treatment does nothing to protect it from the weather.

How to Maintain a Wood Deck

Deck protection depends on continually maintaining the surface. Deck sealing is a critical step on maintenance, because it protects the wood from rain and dew, which can cause the wood to swell. Sealing also protects your deck from the sun, which can shrink and dry the wood. Ongoing weather wear and tear can cause wood to warp, cup, crack, and gray.

  • Give the deck a good scrub as needed. Two rounds of cleaning and rinsing with ordinary soap and warm water will give your deck a nice facelift. If you want to clean your deck with bleach, you can do so, but take care to use oxygen bleach or hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine bleach, which will destroy your deck sealant.

  • Every two to three years, hire a professional to clean and reseal it. Treating a deck only lasts a few years. You can do this work yourself, but DIY sealing doesn’t tend to last as long. Sealing a deck after pressure washing by a pro is the best way to add years to its life.

  • Restain the deck when necessary. The color will fade over the years, so whenever you reseal the deck, check to see if you need to add more stain. Use an oil-based deck stain rather than a solid one. Oil stains last longer, fade gradually, and do not require as much maintenance. If you’re trying to decide between painting or staining wood, talk to an expert about the pros and cons.

wooden deck lake house backyard
PC Photography / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Deck Maintenance Tips for Everyday Care

Protect your deck on a regular basis with these tips. 

  • Inspect your deck at least once a year. Look for split or decaying wood, corroded or missing fasteners, excessive wobbling, and weak railings.

  • Always use a grease catcher with a grill. Grease stains are some of the most difficult to remove.

  • Keep it clean. Regularly sweep your deck for leaves and dirt or shovel snow from it. The buildup from dirt, leaves, or snow can damage it in the long term.

  • You can fix some deck problems yourself, but make sure you turn to a professional rather than get in over your head. A bad job fixing a deck is often worse than no repair at all.

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