Restoring a deck is much different than painting or staining a house. Of all the environmental factors to take into consideration for any one area of a house - rain, snow, sun, foot traffic - a deck experiences all of them. On a deck the rain and snow take their toll on horizontal areas such as flooring, stairs and railings and as for the sun, it affects all areas. Simply stated, sun and moisture related issues are at the root of all paint and stain failure, whether it be on a house or deck.
With this challenge its imperative to do all you can to give yourself the best possible outcome. The steps are outlined below with cleaning the wood being the first, then the preparation, and the final piece is applying quality products. Simple steps, but not so simple in execution.
Lastly is the maintenance cycle. A deck should be maintained roughly every 3-4 years, and if done so will last longer and be less costly to maintain each instance than if left for extended periods between care.
A pressure washer using high pressure and volume of water is necessary to properly clean a deck. During the wash we ask that you shut and lock any windows or patio doors in the surrounding area of the deck. Locking the doors and windows will help prevent water from reaching the interior of your house. Although usually not a drop enters the home, we ask that you look at each door and window sill and make sure that there isn't any moisture that might have made it past the seals.
Although quite a bit of dirt will be extracted from the wood of a deck using pressurized water, water and pressure alone are not sufficient. Over the years we have found that the best product to use while cleaning a deck is common household bleach. The bleach is held in a separate container with a hose running to the pressure washer. When a specialized pressure washer tip is used a small amount of bleach is siphoned into the water stream. The bleach is diluted down to roughly 8% bleach to water, it is just enough to neutralize any mildew present but not enough to damage plant life in the surrounding area. We have never had bleach destroy a plant.
After the bleach and water mixture is applied, the deck is rinsed thoroughly to remove the now loose dirt and mildew. As noted earlier the bleach to water ratio is small when being applied and in the rinsing faze the bleach is diluted down even further. The amount of water used while rinsing the house will remove any potential danger to the surrounding plant life.
After cleaning we allow time for the deck to dry. We have introduced quite a bit of water into the wood and it is important to allow time for the moisture levels to subside. In the summer with average temperatures, three days is the usual timeframe but this can be affected if there is rain or low temperatures.
In a deck restoration project weather is our biggest hurdle to overcome in scheduling, it is critical that the wood is dry when applying stain. Wood can look and feel dry, but just under the surface it can still be retaining moisture. To know with certainty we use a devise that detects moisture levels in wood. We test various areas to make sure all sections are dry, not just an area that may have been in the sun while other areas remain shaded.
Once the moisture levels are at an acceptable level we can begin the preparation. The amount of preparation depends on the project at hand, at the minimum we will lightly sand the floor, stair treads and top areas of the handrails to smooth those areas out. These areas are where snow rests in the winter and rain pools in the summer, so they tend to have the most damage and need attention.
There may be damaged or rotted wood, this is a common issue. We are knowledgeable in carpentry so there is no need to contact an additional contractor only to elevate the overall price or incur unnecessary delays while the repairs are being made.
After the surface preparation is complete it’s now time to apply the finish coat. There are multiple ways to get stain from the can to the intended surface, and because each environment is different and have their own needs we use whatever method is the best fit for any given situation.
The most common way we apply stain is a brush and roller. This method gives us the most control over how much stain is being applied. Some sections of a deck may require more stain than others to achieve a full coat. When using a brush vs a sprayer you’re up closet to the surface your sealing and you can easily spot these areas.
Sometimes a sprayer is appropriate, spindles are very time consuming and if we are able to spray these areas we can lower the time of the project and in turn lower the cost. This savings opportunity cannot always be implemented though. If we can find a way to save money we will, but in turn we will not compromise a project for cost savings.