That soft, fluffy white stuff will build a pretty awesome snow fort but it won't do any favors for your deck
There’s not much use for an outdoor deck that is piled high with snow and ice layers. While most decks that are up to code won’t collapse under the weight of snow, they can still find themselves on the brunt end of winter-related damage. Wooden decks occasionally stain from moisture, and mildew can grow underneath snow piles that linger for longer amounts of time. Nothing will ruin your spring thaw more than splintered, warped, or faded deck boards that winter got the best of.
In other words, it is in your best interest to keep your deck free (ish) from ice and snow throughout the winter months as much as possible. Here are nine ways you can do just that.
1. Prepare Your Deck During Late Fall
Don’t wait until the first heavy snowfall to start thinking about your deck. Prepare ahead of time during the first weeks of winter or the final weeks of fall. This will limit moisture buildup and eliminate any pre-existing problems that would otherwise go undetected under a blanket of snow.
Here are a few preparation steps you should take.
1. Sweep away any dirt or debris before the first snowflakes fall. Make sure you remove any leaves, pine needles, or other organic materials that have accumulated between your deck boards.
2. Remove any planters or pots. These typically have drainage holes that leave moisture trapped between the pots and the deck’s surface.
3. Wash the entire deck and clean off any mildew. Kill the mildew on your deck using a mixture of water, oxygen bleach, and liquid soap. For best results, use three cups of water to one cup of bleach and a few squirts of soap. Put the mixture into a spray bottle and spray any affected areas. Wait 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse with water. Repeat as necessary, using a plastic bristle brush for the most stubborn mildew patches.
4. Have your gear ready. Keep shovels, brooms, ice-removal chemical solutions, and snow blowers in a readily accessible area of your home.
2. Use a Broom
For a light snowfall, opt for a broom instead of breaking out the shovel. The soft bristles will remove the snow gently without scratching your deck. Additionally, brooms will not accidentally remove nails and screws from the deck, which occasionally occurs while shoveling.
3. Shovel (But Don’t Overshovel)
For heavy snowfall, it is time to break out the shovel. As previously stated, most decks can handle around three feet of snowfall before prompting concerns regarding structural integrity.
Try to shovel only when necessary to avoid scratching or damaging the deck boards. Opt for a plastic shovel with a plastic or rubber blade for added protection.
4. Melt Ice With Chemicals, Not Salt
Purchase an approved de-icer or ice-melting agent and use it to remove ice from your deck boards. Exercise caution during this step, as some chemicals, including lye and chlorine, can damage or dye the boards. Pick a chemical solution that is safe for your deck board materials and only use enough to melt the ice. A little goes a long way with this stuff.
Also, avoid salt, as it causes metal nails, screws, and joist hangers to rust, which leads to structural instability.
5. Pour Hot Water to Break Up Patches of Ice
If you are wary of using a chemical solution to clear ice away from your deck, try hot water. Wait for the warmest part of the day to boil some water and pour it over the ice. Work quickly as boiling water can adhere to the ice and freeze fast if not removed. Allow the ice to weaken and then sweep or shovel off the water and melting ice. You can also use a towel to soak up the water.
Note: this method works best for small patches of ice and not large swaths that could potentially refreeze before you have a chance to rid the ice and snow.
6. Buy Snow Melting Mats
Another option is to go for snow melting mats. These mats are on the expensive side but can help keep a walkway or exit path clear from snow and ice. Snow melting mats are easy to install and moveable throughout the season. Plus, you can use them to keep snow off various surfaces, including wooden deck boards, pavement, asphalt, concrete, and stone.
7. Use a Snow Blower
If you want to remove large amounts of snow quickly, efficiently, and without bodily harm, a snowblower is your best friend. Snowblowers make short work out of significant snow accumulations and are a good option when your deck is totally covered.
Even better, a snowblower will not damage your deck in any way because the blades will never touch the boards as the auger turns. That said, a snowblower is undoubtedly a more expensive investment than a corn broom or a rubber shovel.
8. Remove Icicles Carefully
If you like the look of icicles in the winter, opt for the Christmas light variety as the real icicles are sharp and dangerous to you, your deck, and your roof. Remove icicles from your roof as soon as possible to prevent ice dams, but do so carefully. Use a long broom to knock the icicles off the roof and away from your deck. You can help slow their speed and guide the direction they fall by placing wood planks under them before knocking the icicles loose.
Also, try not to hit the icicles too hard during the removal process, as that can cause your gutters to come crashing down.
9. Hire a Professional
If you want the job done quickly, efficiently, and with minimal risk of damage, hire a snow removal specialist. These contractors have all the right tools for the job, so you won’t have to buy anything once the storm hits. They will also recommend any deck repair specialists you may need once spring arrives, just in case your deck experiences moisture rot, termite damage, or warping during the winter.