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Preparing Your Deck for Winter

Proper maintenance is a key ingredient for a long and healthy life for your deck. Now is the time to prepare your deck to protect it from the ravages of winter.
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Image courtesy of California Redwood Association
Image courtesy of California Redwood Association
As fall has begun, thoughts turn to seasonal tasks that every homeowner should take on before the weather turns colder and/or snowy. Now is the perfect time to think about deck maintenance and how to prepare your decking material for the change in seasons.

A well maintained deck adds great value to your home and provides years of activity and enjoyment for the family. If you have a deck built of a material like redwood, which is strong and durable, your maintenance will be low. But it will still need some maintenance, as do all decks.

“The easiest thing that homeowners can do to maintain their deck is to give it a good cleaning,” says Bonny Weil, general contractor at BW Build in San Francisco.

Throughout the summer season, decks accumulate dirt, barbecue stains, rust, mold and mildew. Deep stains may require a hard cleaning.

But, don’t get out the power washers just yet. Bonny advises against using high-pressure water nozzles, as they are a deck’s worst enemy and can carve the wood along the grain lines. The best cleaning technique is to use a garden hose, a soft car brush and a deck cleaner such as Wolman Deck & Fence Brightener.

“If you clean your deck once a year in this manner, it will look practically brand-new,” Weil explains.

Image courtesy of California Redwood Association
Image courtesy of California Redwood Association
If a homeowner insists on sealing their deck, Bonny recommends a clear penetrating finish such as: Penofin or Thompson’s Wood Protector. Plan on re-applying this finish yearly. However, if you have a choice, stay away from products that coat your deck such as urethanes, lacquers and paints. “When they chip and peel, you’ll have to sand to get the rest of the product off.”

For decks that are chipped or peeling finish, that need to be restored, it’s best to hire a painting contractor to sand it. For do-it-yourselfers, the best tool to use is an orbital sander. Start with 80 grit and work your way up from there.

Another important step is to check for deck safety and imperfections. Owners should check for deck stability, rot, stair and handrail strength, popped up nails and splinters. Any problems found in these areas should be mended before the winter months. Also make sure that the space or gap between deck boards is clean and free from debris.  This will help with drainage of rainwater and snow melt.  Ideally, the gap between boards should be 1/4-inch to 3/16-inch wide.

For decks in states with snow, remove all planters and deck furniture and store in either a garage or under the deck. This will prevent rust or mold from forming.

During winter, the best thing a homeowner can do for their deck is keep as much snow off of it as possible. Use a push broom to remove snow, avoid using shovels – for they may mark up the wood. Also, don’t use any salt or ice removers to prevent the wood surface from deteriorating.

For more information on deck maintenance, check out tips from the California Redwood Association at For more information on Bonny Weil General Contractor, visit

Former Journeywoman Carpenter Bonny Weil began her building career with classes in Construction Technology at Santa Monica College in 1979. Ms. Weil has been a licensed general contractor since 1990. She spent more that two decades building and managing a wide variety of challenging and unique projects before establishing Bonny Weil General Contractor in 2004.

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