DECK maintenance & waterproofing

how to make your deck live well into old age and in good shape.

DECK MAINTENANCE

Seasonal tasks to make sure you clean your wood deck properly and catch any problems early.​​​​​​​ ​​​

waterproofing

Do want full waterproofing for your deck? An impermeable deck surface or an under deck drainage system? This a deep and detailed subject but here is where to start.

ANNUAL DECK MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST

Follow this seasonal schedule for a healthy deck.

Below is a guide for deck maintenance that covers all the crucial areas. It is intended to help you keep your efforts to a minimum rather than embark on a costly and timely overhaul. 

For many areas warm weather only lasts for about six months of the year, which means during the other six months, your deck is facing the harsh elements that come with the climatic changes from summer to winter.
This also means that in order to preserve your wooden deck, you will have to maintain it each year in some way.

Depending on your climatic conditions, the causes of deterioration may vary but generally fall within the following sources.  Be sure to focus your annual deck maintenance strategy accordingly

1. what is affecting your deck?

DETERIORATION DAMAGE SOLUTIONS
Water
Moisture causes the wood to expand and when it dries out it contracts. This can cause fasteners to pop and boards to warp, crack and split. If the deck remains constantly wet, a perfect environment exists for fungus and bacteria to establish itself and that is when rot begins. In a worst case scenario, wet rot will result in wood members turning to mush over time. Sweeping your deck regularly, clearing away puddles, dirt and leaves that retain moisture and don't dry out easily.
Sun
Ultra violet rays can break down the bonds between wood cells. Fortunately, sun damage isn't as serious as water damage because the rays only penetrate about 1/100th of an inch into the wood, really only affecting the surface. The interesting thing is that this damaged surface actually protects the healthy wood below and if you sand it away the fresh wood exposed will become damaged. The best deck maintenance for a wood deck in a sunny area is a good coat of sealant or stain. Oils tend to be the most durable.
Insects
Cedar and redwood are insect resistant but not insect proof. There is a difference. The best material for decking that is near soil where there are insects is pressure and marine treated lumber.

2. quick inspection tips

At the beginning of each season be sure to conduct a thorough inspection of your deck. 

  • Annual deck maintenance checks include walking around the deck to listen for squeaks. Try to feel soft spots or sagging areas.
  • Take a screw driver and use it to physically pick or apply pressure to key components of the deck. Wood gets soft as it begins to rot and poking boards with a screw driver will reveal these tell-tale signs.
  • Check all areas where there is direct wood to wood contact. We have mentioned this in other articles but its even more relevant when it comes to doing the annual check up.

3. EXAMINE WHERE DECK BOARDS CONTACT JOISTS

Check where joists contact beams and where the beams contact posts. 

Annual deck maintenance isn't complete without examining the posts and concrete footing contact points as these areas are particularly prone to moisture.

  • Check the ledger board where the deck connects to the house. 
  • Check the bottom of the stair stringers where contact is made with the ground or landing area.
  • Take note of areas that are showing water stains as these areas are telling you they received constant moisture and have potential for future problems.  
  • If the area is open grain and facing up to the elements, it will suck water in via capillary action very effectively. After all that's how trees live.  But even for any piece of  dimensional lumber regardless of whether it is standing vertical or laying flat, the "infrastructure" is still there,  so watch out.These are critical areas to maintain your wooden deck.

4. Replace Rotting Boards

This requires a bit of a surgical approach sometimes as you may have to only remove one rotting board tucked in tightly among other deck boards.

A circular saw and a sharp chisel are required for this kind of work. The saw won't entirely cut across the decking without damaging the next board.

So, finish the cut with a sharp chisel.

5. Check Your Stairs

  • Deck stairs tend to be susceptible to rot in a couple of key areas - the stringer tread connection points, and the stringer landing points. 
  • The end grain of the stair treads can soak up water in a hurry depending on how you have configured the tread stringer connection.
  • The stringer itself is also susceptible to rot at the foot where it contacts the landing and the end grain is very vulnerable to soaking up water like a straw.
  • Proper deck maintenance involves checking the health of the stringers and elevating them somewhat off the landing.

DO A BIT AT A TIME OR A LOT ALL AT ONCE

Annual deck maintenance should be an annual routine. It will help you keep on top of things and then you will never have to do a major overhaul.

If you incorporate annual deck maintenance into your routine you'll spend just a little extra time each spring or fall maintaining it and more time enjoying it!

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A discussion about the importance of pressure washing your deck carefully so that you don't destroy the wood deck boards.

DECK FINISHING PROCEDURE AND PRODUCTS

If you have cleaned your deck thoroughly, finishing is the next step.

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EXPERT ADVICE & PRODUCTS FROM BUILDER TO YOU

DECK WATERPROOFING SOLUTIONS

Are you facing the dilemma of waterproofing a wood deck after it has been built? There are several ways to create a waterproof deck.  There are either coatings, membranes or physical catchment systems like eavestroughs or elaborate under deck systems.  Each have their own benefits and drawbacks.

WATERPROOFING SOLUTIONS 

SOLUTIONS DESCRIPTION
Surface Coatings Just as it sounds you cover the deck surface with a liquid material and it becomes an impermeable layer. But it won't work directly on gapped boards. You have to cover the boards with tongue and groove plywood, glued and screwed to the deck. See More!
Waterproof Membrane Membranes are solid sheets of waterproof material that are adhered down onto surfaces much like flooring. The decking industry uses a lot of durable vinyl flooring which originated in the boating industry to seal the inside deck of a boat. See More!
Locking Decking A concept that is proven is to use extruded aluminum planks that replace wooden boards. These extrusions lock together and can have a textured, or profiled surface which stops water from dripping down and channels it to the perimeter of the deck if the slope is correct. See More!
Under Deck Systems Thankfully some very talented people have spent a lot of time working out all the details of making a wood deck waterproof. They all are based on physically catching water under the deck with panels that act like a big eaves trough. See More!

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Fiberglass decking material is a reliable alternative to other waterproof deck coatings. It is also hard and very durable.

MATT WHALE OF DURADEK INTERVIEW

Duradek is a rolled waterproof membrane made of PVC. It has over fifty years of thermal plastic proven technology behind it and is a proven roofing/waterproof membrane.

Listen to expert bill leys

A TRUE WATERPROOFING EXPERT

​​​​​​​Bill Leys is the owner of Central Coast Waterproofing  and has deep knowledge about all the different types of waterproofing options for decks, balconies, porches, concrete floors, rooftops and more.

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