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How To Restore Your Wood Deck

Decks connect your home to the outdoors in a naturally beautiful way. But they also take a lot of abuse from weather, sun, kids, pet, foot traffic, and more. It’s common for decks to age in just a few months from UV rays, changes in temperature, humidity, discoloration, wood rot, and more. Damage happens quickly and harshly—so much so you might want to replace your deck entirely. But there are ways to restore your wood deck for much cheaper than a total replacement. Wood restoration can have your deck looking as fresh and vibrant as the day you got it! 
Most decks are made of redwood, cedar, or treated pine, which are durable woods that last. This means it’s more the finish of the deck that needs to be updated. Restore and protect your deck now and every year in order to prep it for any abuse that comes its way!

How do you restore and protect your wood deck from potential weathering? 

1. Inspect for rot.

Before restoring, you first want to check for any damage to the wood. If your deck was pressure-treated, it’s likely resistant to rot. If untreated, there’s a chance that rot can break down the surface of your deck. But any wood will rot if wet for long enough. You want to treat any rotted wood before it ruins the structure of your deck. 

Most rot occurs in hard-to-see places, like under the decking boards and stairs. Because of this, you’ll want to crawl under the deck to fully inspect. You’ll see patches of darkened wood in areas with rot. If you can put a screwdriver into the area, it’s rotted. If the rot is less than ½ inch deep, you can likely leave it in place for the meantime. However, extensive rot calls for replacement boards. Call in a professional decking or landscaping company for assistance. 

2. Inspect for durability.

Along with rot, you’ll want to make sure your deck remains structurally durable as well. Inspect areas that come into contact with the ground or house, like posts, stairs, and joists. Look for loose or rusted screws, bolts, and nails. Tighten the fasteners that attach the deck to the house. Inspect for loose wood that could cause splinters. 


3. Rinse the deck.

Cleaning your decks annually helps protect from disintegration and damage. Before any restoration or re-staining, you want your decks free of dirt, gunk, and stains. 

Rinse the surface with clean, clear water. If you have tough stains or mildew, you may want to use a pressure washer with a power of 600 to 800 psi. This attacks stains and removes damaged wood fibers. We recommend using a fan nozzle, rather than a pinpoint, to avoid damaging or denting the deck. 

4. Protect.

Cover your plants. Put a plastic sheeting over nearby plants and equipment that could be damaged by the chemicals in certain deck cleaners and restorers. 

You’ll also want to ensure you are protected during this process. You’ll want to wear gloves, old clothing, and eye and mouth protection. Don’t let children or pets near the deck while in the restoration process. 

5. Apply a deck cleaner.

Next, you’ll apply the deck cleaner to the wood. Use a stiff-bristle brush to gently scrub the cleaner into the deck. This will help remove stains and old wood fibers while revealing fresh, clean wood underneath. You can find deck scrubbing products here. 

There are three main types of deck cleaners to choose from: 

Sodium hypochlorite: chlorine bleach good for mildew and dirt stains; mix it with an ammonia-free detergent for the deepest clean.
Sodium percarbonate: hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate; good for dirt, mildew, weathered wood
Sodium hydroxide: most common ingredient in lifters and removers; good for most stains

Make sure to rinse the deck thoroughly with a hose or pressure washer to ensure the cleaner doesn’t sit on the surface, eating away at the wood. 

6. Strip the old finish.

After you’ve cleaned the deck, you can see if you have a peeling or oxidized finish. If so, you’ll want to remove that finish in order to fully restore the wood. 

To remove the old finish you can use a chemical stripper or eliminate tons hassle by renting an Onfloor multi-surface machine with Deck Brushes to remove the old finish and dead wood fibers.

Choose a deck stripper that is eco-friendly and biodegradable. Many wood strippers are filled with toxic chemicals that can harm your plants, pets, and family members. Follow the instructions on your green deck stripper to remove the old finish. 

7. Restore the wood.

Before adding a new finish, you’ll want to restore the wood. We recommend an oxalic acid deck brightener. These will help lift brown, black, and gray tannins to revive the original beauty of the wood. These products are especially good for redwood and cedar decks. 

You can buy pre-mixed oxalic acid deck cleaner and follow the instructions on the label. You can also buy oxalic acid crystals and mix 4 ounces of crystals with 1 quart of water (using a non-metallic container). 

When applying the brightener, apply with a rag moving one board at a time. You can then scrub in with a soft brush. Allow the finish to dry thoroughly. Then, rinse with using a hose (not a pressure washer). Allow the deck to dry again before applying the finish. 

8. Finish the surface.

Let the deck dry, but don’t leave it too long or it could get dirty again. Then, check to see if it needs to be sealed. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the wood. If the water soaks in, you need to seal your deck. You want moisture to bead, so the deck will be better resistant to water damage and rot. 

Contact Onfloor to find the wood finish that is best suited for your deck. We will likely provide you with a wood finish that is:

Oil or paraffin based to resist moisture
UV-blocking or pigmented to resist tanning
Semi-transparent, opaque, or clear (we often avoid paint as it tends to need frequent recoating)
Insecticide if your home gets a lot of bugs


The Bottom Line

Consistent care for your deck will help prevent it from the expected wears and tears of the “great outdoors.” Protect your wood and home aesthetic with a simple, easy restoration process. 

Need help? Contact us at Onfloor for a specialized consultation about resurfacing your wood deck!

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