outdoor deck preparation for winter

While we’re still enjoying temperatures into the upper 60s, it would be a great time to go through and examine your outdoor deck for signs of damage. Why now? One reason is that the general summer contracting season is ending, so deck builders might be glad to give a discount for “one more” project before the winter moves in. More importantly, cracks and damage to your deck can quickly get worse once water starts getting into the cracks and freezing.  If you’re going to address damage to your deck, doing it before winter has its advantages.

Some things you’ll want to check on when it comes to the health of your deck:

  1. Are your connectors/fasteners rusted? If you see rust on any of the metal that holds your deck together (nails, bolts, screws, hangers, etc.), you may want to bring in a professional to inspect and fix the rusted materials.
  2. Bug problems. Most modern decks don’t suffer from bug problems because of the treated wood that they use, but other decks can quickly invite termites and carpenter ants, which will degrade the quality and safety of your deck. The North American Deck and Railing Association estimates that around 50% of all decks in North America are over 30 years old.
  3. Just as mentioned in #2, if your deck is over 30 years old, it’s very much cause for concern. Decks aren’t designed to last that long, and the ones that were built 30 or more years ago were especially not designed to last that long. If your deck is that old, you may want to get it inspected due to age alone.
  4. Cracks in the wood and materials. Any cracks are going to get water inside, and that water, in the cold, will freeze. Just like potholes, the freezing and unfreezing over the winter can ruin parts or all of your deck.
  5. If your deck has mold or mildew damage, you should at least tackle it with a bleach solution. Mold and mildew, when wet, can make decks and deck stairs very slippery, and mold growing in the wood can weaken the wood.
  6. Is your deck creaking? Does it make funny sounds all of a sudden? Is one board higher than it was yesterday? Call a professional—there is always a reason things happen, and it could very well be something you need to address.

It’s good to keep a safe deck, and even If you aren’t going to use it throughout the winter, you want to make sure you’re safe and ready to go next spring. Fixing it now instead of in the spring means you have a better chance at getting a good price for the work (compared to when everyone is in demand), and your work might be much easier to do now than after a winter of continual freezing and unfreezing.


Henry Duckstein Jr.


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