DIY - Upgrade Your Old Deck

By: Justin Havre

Is your deck looking like it is past its prime? Does it even have the odd softer spot here and there? Is it faded and looks more the color of gray concrete than of red cedar? If you have already priced out the cost of a replacement and decided that you haven't got a spare $8,000 at the moment - think whether or not you have a spare weekend or two. If you 'con' the family or friends to join in and help, it may even be a fun and memorable weekend.

The number of tools you will need is minimal and they can be rented. Apart from the usual household tools, you will need a small saw to remove and replace the small damaged sections of deck boards (and some two-by-fours for replacement boards if you need them), an electric sprayer to apply the cleaners, etc, a (long handled) painting pad and a stiff deck broom to use as a scrubbing brush. Some people recommend a power washer, but if you do use one, be careful with the pressure. Some of the pressure washers are so fierce that they can actually force dents into your woodwork!

A normal household water pressure when applied through a garden hose is around 60 to 80 pounds per square inch pressure, and you can buy pressure washers that can multiply this by about 15 times and zoom it up to 1,000 pounds per square inch. Ouch!

If you use a fierce power washer you will have to keep the wand a good eighteen inches away from the deck surface and also do not let it remain stationary on any one area, i.e., keep it moving. However, before you get to that part, check your deck for loose nails, twisted boards, softer areas that must be cut out and replaced, etc.

If you have nails popping up, you can hammer them below the surface using a drift punch, or lever them out and replace with screws or a slightly larger nail. If some of your planks are twisted, they will need to be screwed down while someone stands on them! If this is not working, the boards will have to be replaced.

Once you have your deck ready to work on, the first thing to do is to apply 'deck wash'. Wet your deck down and apply the wash directly onto the deck; spray on only the amount that you can scrub in in about a ten minute period. Use your broom to scrub in the wash and also to distribute it evenly.

After leaving the wash for about fifteen minutes, you can hose or power wash it off. You will be amazed at the difference that just a wash can make to your deck. If some spots still remain dull or dark, they may be helped by the wood brightener.

The procedure for the brightener is similar. Wet the deck down, spray on the brightener BUT this time wait a few minutes, scrub it into the surface and after about ten minutes you can rinse it off. Work on a strip about ten boards wide.

Once this is done you must wait a few days to let it thoroughly dry out. If it has not rained for a couple of days, then you can seal it on the second weekend.

After all the hard work, you can now apply the part that really makes a difference: the sealer/stain which will waterproof your deck. Whichever finish you choose, remember to paint the railings first; use a three inch brush for this and work down from the top, to catch the drips!

If you've had to add many new pieces of wood in your deck, and you wish to keep it looking uniform, then you may wish to paint it. Use proper deck paint and get the best one that you can afford. Some manufacturers recommend two coats of primer and one of top coat, whereas others recommend two of top coat and one of primer! A quick drying self priming alkyd paint is ideal if you want less work.

If you are going to stain it, notice that there is a heavy stain and a light stain. This refers to the way that it looks on your wood, not to the durability. A heavy bodied stain will show up the grain but not the texture, whereas lighter bodied will still show the texture as well as the grain. If you feel that your wood is somewhat 'weathered' and overly textured, you may wish to choose the heavier stain to smooth it out a little. If your stain is not a stain/sealer, you can coat the stain with a sealer once it is dry; use one that says it is 'non chalking' to avoid your finish being rubbed off with wear.

Apply the deck stain with a painting pad (like a long broom handle with a flat board on the end of it.) A painting pad has a slightly rough finish so that it will rub the liquid into the surface of the wood. Apply your sealing coat along the grain of the wood.

Wait 24 hours, pull out your sun chairs, stretch out and congratulate yourself; you have just saved thousands of dollars!

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