Monthly Maintenance Reminder: How to Maintain Your Deck and Patio

Decks and Porches
Outdoor and Gardening
Outdoor Additions
By Contractors.com Team September 09, 2021

Decks and patios are great additions to any home. They boost curb appeal and are full of limitless possibilities for fun and entertainment. It’s the ideal venue for your next cookout, birthday party, or even just a small get-together with friends. Any beautiful deck or patio is sure to become the new centerpiece of your home’s backyard, and the nucleus of family fun. 

It can almost be said that you can’t have suburbia without one of these two outdoor additions. There’s just something indescribably magical about sitting outside at dusk with friends and loved ones, especially during the summer months when the sunset is punctuated by the glow of fireflies. But to keep that magic alive, your deck and/or your patio will need some tender loving care. As with all things outside, your outdoor spaces are exposed to the elements and have to constantly deal with moisture, temperature changes, bugs, grime, mold, and everything in between. It is for this reason that maintenance of your outside spaces is a big part of home maintenance. 

Without regular care, these elements can cause even the best deck or patio to start falling apart, making it unsafe to use. Fortunately, deck and patio maintenance is relatively simple. So long as a few steps are followed to keep things running smoothly every year, your outdoor living space will remain trouble-free for years to come. 

Deck Maintenance

A deck can be kept in top-notch shape with just a few simple deck maintenance jobs. 

Wash the Deck

The first order of business is deck cleaning. Washing your deck will help to clear it of any mold, mildew, moss, and other debris which can help accelerate rot and cause other problems. If you have any plants near your deck, be sure to cover them before you start cleaning. 

Power washing is a great way to strip off most of the gunk that likes to accumulate on decks, while a putty knife can help scrape out the more stubborn stuff from between planks. Power washing can damage composite decks so it is recommended that you use a broom instead if you have a deck made of composite materials.

Regular Washes Can Help You Catch More Serious Issues With Your Deck In Advance

Regular Washes Can Help You Catch More Serious Issues With Your Deck In Advance

Once this is done, it is recommended that you use a deck wash product such as Olympic deck cleaner. This product is specifically designed for cleaning wooden decks and will help strip away dirt without damaging the planks. Other deck wash products are available for composite and vinyl decks too. To clean a wood deck, simply apply the deck cleaner using a paint roller or a stiff brush broom. Avoid letting the deck cleaner pool or scrub away once it has been applied. Then, let the product dry (this usually takes ten minutes) before rinsing it with water.  

Inspect for Damage

Deck cleaning can also reveal any damage that your deck may have, making repair easy. The first thing to do is look for any evidence of rotting planks. Rotting planks will often show discoloration, flaking, splintering, or stripping. The best way to do this is to probe a suspect area with a screwdriver or a dull knife. 

If you’re able to push the screwdriver a quarter-inch or more into a plank without much force, the plank is likely rotting. Use a similar method to check the joists, posts, and beams which hold up your deck. Also, be sure to shine a flashlight on your ledger as this is the piece that attaches the deck to the house. Broken ledgers are the cause of the majority of deck collapses, so this is a step you definitely shouldn’t skip. 

The best deck repair solution for any wood rot you may find depends on the extent of the damage. Replacing a deck board with extensive rot is the most effective long-term solution. There may be situations in which a rotting joist or beam is hard to get to and therefore difficult to replace. In this case, use additional splints to reinforce the rotting section as a stop-gap until you can put in a more permanent solution. However, if the area of rot isn’t much bigger than a quarter, you may be able to chisel out the rot. Once that’s done all that’s left is to apply a wood preservative to the affected area and the deck repair is complete. 

Seal Your Deck

Sealing a deck is one of the best ways to maximize its lifespan. Sealer will protect your deck from UV rays and will also act as a defense against weather damage. A stain finish will give more weather protection than sealer, but will completely cover the wood grain. Sealers should be applied once a year for the best results, along with a toner. Stain finishes should be reapplied every other year. You will need to do some light sanding before applying sealer or a stain, so it’s a good idea to seal your deck after washing it (since that means less work). 

Maximize the Lifespan of Your Deck With Sealer and Stain

Maximize the Lifespan of Your Deck With Sealer and Stain

You should also take this opportunity to replace any nails or screws that are sticking out more than a quarter-inch or are missing. Be sure you apply sealer, toner, and or finish during a two-day period when there won’t be any rain. Use a roller to apply the sealer or stain, and be sure to wear a protective mask, eye protection, and gloves. Ideally, you want to aim for two thin coats of sealer or stain. Just be sure to keep the solution you choose from pooling on one part of the deck.    

Patio Maintenance

Most patios are made up of paving stones typically made from natural stone. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but either way, patio maintenance will be a pretty similar process. 

Cleaning Your Patio

As a general “maintenance clean” you should try to sweep your patio once every week or two. Since your patio is outside, debris will accumulate quickly and so should be regularly swept away to keep your patio clean and pleasant. However, paving stones will also become stained over time with dirt, mold, and mildew. They may even start getting moss on them. To get rid of this grime you should scrub your pavers with some warm soapy water. 

If this doesn’t work, consider getting a patio cleaner as these will be able to remove tough stains. Just be sure to avoid any product that’s really acidic as these can damage your paving stones quite easily. If your patio consists of a large concrete slab, you might be able to get away with power washing, but you should avoid doing this if you have concrete tiles since they could get damaged. Either way, aim to do a deep clean of your patio at least three times a year.  

Patio Repair

Even the strongest patio paving stones will start to falter with time. It's normal for individual tiles to crack, break loose, and wear as time goes on. While it can be an annoyance, a broken patio paving stone is an easy DIY fix in most cases. If a paver is cracked or broken, the best thing to do is to remove it and replace it with a new one. This is a simple matter of removing the old paver and chipping away any of the old mortar left behind. Once this is done, apply a new mortar bed and lay the new paving stone into place. 

Keep Your Patio Pavers In Top Shape By Replacing Damaged Ones As Soon As Possible

Keep Your Patio Pavers In Top Shape By Replacing Damaged Ones As Soon As Possible

Making Your Own Mortar Mix

To make mortar, mix four parts building sand, and one part cement. To ensure the mortar has enough bonding power, be sure to get the right balance of water. Mortar dries within around forty minutes of being mixed, so be sure to use it soon after making it for a long-lasting patio repair. 

Pointing and Repointing a Loose Paving Stone

If a paver comes loose, you will need to do a repair known as repointing. This effectively means putting in new mortar or jointing compound so that the paving stone will no longer come loose. This is a relatively easy job and can be done in a single afternoon. Just chisel away any of the old mortar around the paver, and fill the gaps with new mortar. Alternatively, you can also use a jointing compound if you’d like to avoid going through the trouble of making mortar.  

Patio Sealing 

An important part of patio maintenance is adding a paver sealer. This will prolong the lifespan of your pavers and protect them from weather damage, high foot traffic, and moisture. It will also keep the mortar from breaking down too soon. However, it is recommended that you hold off on sealing your patio if you have just installed new pavers. This is because brand new paving stones naturally develop bleach spots that disappear after a short period. 

When To Apply Patio Sealer and When Not To

When To Apply Patio Sealer and When Not To

Applying sealer will keep these unsightly marks in place, so be sure to wait for the bleach spots to disappear before applying sealer. It is also important to only apply the sealer shortly after the patio has been cleaned and given time to dry. Once the sealer has been applied, it can last up to five years before it has to be reapplied.

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team