April 1, 2011 10:45 am
By Daniel DiClerico
RISMEDIA, April 1, 2011-If you live in a seasonal climate and own a deck, it should soon be the scene of cookouts, cocktails and general conviviality. Right now, though, it's probably covered in muck and maybe the odd assortment of lawn gear. As much as Americans love their decks, caring for them isn't always top of the agenda. Indeed, the last time we surveyed consumers nationwide, nearly 20 percent said they never clean or power-wash their decks, and 29 percent said they never stain or seal them.
Regular maintenance is essential to keeping a deck safe and secure. That's why Consumer Reports tests deck stains on an ongoing basis. We're just wrapping up our latest review of solid, semi-transparent, and clear stains. The final results won't be ready for several weeks, but if you need to restain your deck, you'll probably need to wait that long for the weather to improve. We recommend temperatures between 50 F and 85 F, with little wind or direct sunlight, which can cause the stain to dry too quickly.
Ahead of those weather conditions, you can perform a visual inspection of the deck and make any necessary repairs. Here's the three-point plan:
Step One: Clean the surface. Use soapy water and a soft-bristled brush to remove dirt, mold, and other debris. A power washer will also work, but hold the nozzle at least 12 inches from the deck to avoid damage.
Step Two: Spot splinters and popped nails. Both are a safety hazard. Break off splinters and sand sharp edges. Hammer nails and tighten screws.
Step Three: Check the structure. Be on the lookout for rotten boards, broken railings, and wobbly steps. Check the framing for rot and insect damage, especially where the deck ties into the house.
If you discover extensive damage to the deck, consider a replacement. Consumer Reports decking reviews cover wood, composite, plastic and aluminum. We currently recommend seven models across all four categories, with prices ranging from $175 to $1,000 per 100 square feet. That doesn't include installation, however, which could add thousands to the bottom line-another reason to take good care of the deck you've got.
For more information, visit www.consumerreports.org.
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