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Three Steps To Refinish Your Decks
Keeping decks sturdy and looking new is a three step process that can be low cost and require only moderate effort.
First, test the condition of your deck by performing a simple test. Drip water from a turkey basting or similar tool onto the surface. If it beads well, refinishing isn't necessary. If it soaks in rapidly, a full treatment is required.
Next, get a few different weather reports. Pick a period of a week where you expect moderate temperatures and low humidity. Several drying intervals will be needed.
Washing - the critical step
Decks wear and weather unevenly. Some areas get heavy foot traffic, others very little. Some parts are exposed to more hours of sunlight, while others are constantly shaded. Those shaded areas often get much less rain, snow and even wind that blows wearing dust across the surface.
But it's important to start with a uniform surface, throughly clean and mildew free and prepared to absorb stain or sealer. Some will require only a mild dish detergent wash with a long handled scrub brush, followed by a rinse from the garden hose.
Ensure that any debris between the slats is removed. Wash away spider webs, leaves, pebbles and so forth. If a hose isn't adequate a stiff paint brush or putty knife may be needed.
For more severely weathered decks, renting a pressure washer is often a low cost, low hassle alternative. Check for ones that deliver at least 1,000 psi of pressure and have nozzles that spray a jet 30 degrees wide or more. Hold the nozzle about 6 inches above the surface and spray slowly in line with the grain, then allow to dry for a few days.
If your deck is more than a couple of years old, you will probably want to pre-treat the wood by using a deck cleaner. Despite the wide variety available, simple oxalic acid solutions still do a perfectly good job. Test the cleaner on a non-conspicuous area before treating the entire surface. Again, allow to dry for a couple of days.
For stubborn mildew buildup a cup of TSP (trisodium phosphate) mixed with a cup of household liquid bleach makes for a good spot remover. Apply, then rinse after 15 minutes.
Stripping and Repairing
After the deck is thoroughly washed and dried, stripping any remaining stain, paint or earlier applied sealer is carried out. At this stage, you'll want to replace any broken screws, cracked boards and make any other needed repairs.
Most recommend doing this first. The advantage to leaving it until after the wash is eliminating any washing of new boards, many of which are specially treated. The downside is you'll have used some material and effort to wash boards you intend to replace.
Allow to dry for a couple of days.
Now for the (relatively) easy part.
Select a stain that's water repellent or water proof, don't settle for one that's merely 'water resistant'. Ask for one that has good fiber penetrating ability. Stains that soak in deeply protect best and last longest. Most will contain some kind of mildewcide, but check to be sure and ask about UV protection.
Mask off any metal thresholds, molding, etc. Do nooks and crannies first with a small brush or rag. Apply to the larger surfaces with a smooth nylon or lamb's wool roller. Allow to dry for at least two days before walking on.
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