5 Common Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Deck

by Matthew BreyerSeptember 26, 2018

A good homeowner pays attention to the care and maintenance of every part of their home, including their outdoor living spaces such as a deck. Unfortunately, some people invest in a quality deck for their home, only to assume no further attention is required. Deck maintenance is important for your safety and the value of your home.

A nice blue home with an expansive deck.

If left unattended and poorly maintained, a deck will become less safe and attractive over time. Here are five common mistakes which can ruin your deck.

Lack of Cleaning

In order to properly maintain your deck, it’s important to frequently check for and remove leaves and other organic debris. Take the time to sweep your deck along the house wall, in corners, between railings, and on steps. Allowing debris to building up and remain wet can invite mold and promote rot.

Close up of a man cleaning terrace with a power washer - high water pressure cleaner on wooden terrace surface.

Neglecting to Inspect Your Deck

Every deck should be checked at least twice a year to make sure all areas are safe and secure. For example, make sure the railing doesn’t “give” when you try to push out or wriggle it. Check the top and bottom connections of your steps to ensure the framing doesn’t move away from the deck’s structure.

Beyond the deck itself, inspect the surrounding area for trees with overhanging limbs. If they appear in danger of falling on your deck, have them removed immediately. Ensure that key areas and walkways are properly illuminated to reduce the chance of falling or tripping. If areas appear dim, add more lighting.

Using the Wrong Cleaner

You wouldn’t use a household cleaner to brush your teeth, and you shouldn’t use a strong detergent or chlorine bleach to clean a deck with untreated wood. Untreated wood requires simple dish detergent and water applied with lots of elbow grease.

And remember: NEVER use a power washer on a wood deck, whether or not it is treated or untreated. The force of the water can damage the top layer, inviting insects and mold. A composite deck, however, can handle a gentle pressure washer.

“Resurfacing” an Old Wood Deck

If a wood deck is several years old and deteriorating, the worn-out materials need to be replaced, not covered over with stain or paint. Treating the surface will not solve the problem; it will only mask it. If you are unsure whether parts of your deck need to be replaced, consult a deck building professional.

Applying protective varnish on deck.

Ignoring Signs of Damage

If the surface of the deck is visibly damaged, it’s safe to assume that parts you can’t see are also in disrepair. For example, if fasteners or hardware are rusty, it may be a sign that parts of your deck are wearing out and might be compromised.

Keep Your Deck Safe

In order to ensure the safety of you, your family, friends, and guests, it’s important to regularly inspect and maintain your deck. Doing so will reveal potential issues before they become safety hazards.

Your deck should be a place to enjoy year-round with your loved ones, from summer picnics to post-football game parties. Address these five common mistakes to make sure that it’s safe and attractive.

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About The Author
Matthew Breyer
Matthew Breyer is the owner of Breyer Construction & Landscape, a family-owned residential remodeling company in southeastern Pennsylvania that specializes in designing and building custom outdoor living areas and other home improvements. Matt wears many hats in this role, including Lead-Designer where he works directly with clients as well as supporting the rest of the BCL design team as they work to understand our client’s dreams, needs, and concerns — and create a unique solution to ensure the finished project exceeds expectations. When not working, Matt enjoys spending time with his family, as well as serving as president of the North American Deck and Railing Association.