Western Red Cedar remains one of the most popular materials used for decks and patios to date. It is naturally rot resistant, has anti-fungal and insect repellent properties, and can last 20 or more years with regular maintenance. Follow these steps to keep your cedar deck in tip-top condition for many years to come.
1. Clean | Schedule: as necessary or 1-3 times/week
It may go without saying, but do not underestimate the benefits of cleaning plant debris and dirt off of your deck on a regular basis. While cedar does preserve well in moist areas (ahem, Seattle), any moist material left to dry on the wood will encourage damage and decomposition. A good sweeping with your kitchen broom will usually suffice – although, my parents went so far as to send me and my sister out with screw drivers to pick out the rocks between the deck boards. Diligent maintenance practices or to get us out of their hair? The jury is still out.
Do not use a stiff-bristled brush, as it will create grooves for dirt and water to hide and rot to start.
2. Wash | Schedule: 1-2 time/year (ideally in the spring and prior to staining)
Decks and patios are prime real estate for outdoor cooking and backyard BBQs. Making sure to clean up any grease or food spills before they settle into the grain will go a long way toward preserving the quality and color of your cedar deck. You can purchase specialized deck cleaning solutions at your local hardware store, but oxygen bleach (not liquid bleach) will also work wonders and is safe for the wood and environment. Applying the cleaning soution is as easy as using a long-handled paint roller or garden sprayer. At this phase, you will want to inspect your deck for rot and/or repairs – replace boards, tighten screws or hammer in nails, etc. You may want to hire a handyman if the repairs are extensive.
3. Sand (if your deck has gone less than 3 years since the last staining, you can skip sanding and go straight to Step 4) | Schedule: prior to staining
This is often the step that causes a particularly nasty cringe among homeowners, but it is also the most important step for prepping a cedar deck for staining. Follow steps 1 and 2 first, then apply medium grit sanding to the deck surface (heavier if you’re removing paint). This can be done either by hand, or with a power sander (a belt sander will work, but an orbital is best). Be advised that sanding can remove actual wood, so only sand as much as removes debris and smoothes the wood. For railing or fascia, a fine grit sanding is recommended.
4. Stain | Schedule: 1 time/year (ideally in late summer)
Bonus points if you made it here without having to do step 3! For best results, make sure that your deck has been dry a minimum of 24 hours before application. There are two types of stains you can apply: oil-based and water-based. The preferences for stains vary as widely as the selection, but the gist breaks down to this: oil-based stains typically last longer, while water-based stains are much more environmentally friendly and have fewer toxins. Most importantly is to stay away from the cheap stuff, and read the manufacturer instructions. Every product has its own specifications, so applying the product per manufacturer instructions will lead to the best results.
>>If you would rather hire this step out, we know several painting and staining companies who would be honored to have your business. Email us for a referral!<<