Long Live the Hardwood Deck: Proper Care and MaintenanceWritten by Chris Nolan on
Hardwood decking is treasured for its natural beauty and incredibly long lifespan. The strength of hardwood decking is unmatched. Here are some planning, care, and maintenance tips for how to get the best value and most enjoyment from your hardwood deck. A little planning and care will extend the look and performance of your exterior wood for decades.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT WOOD SPECIES
Before you get started with your deck project, check out the various hardwood species you may want to consider. Ipe decking has long been recognized as the best wood decking material option, bar none. But there are many other hardwood species that may be a good match for your project. Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry), Machiche, Garapa, and other hardwood decking species may be a better fit for your project. Different colors, different grains, and a range of prices may factor into your decision.
RELATED: Check Out Hardwood Decking Options
CHOOSE THE RIGHT SIZE DECKING BOARDS
Size matters. Wide decking boards are fantastic for decks that are at least thirty inches above the ground with lots of ventilation beneath. 1 x 6 and 5/4 x 6 deck boards are ideal for high clearance, well-ventilated decks. However, for lower clearance decks, with limited ventilation, narrower and thicker boards work much better. 5/4 x 4 decking is the ideal width and thickness for low clearance and limited ventilation deck designs.
RELATED: Low Clearance Deck Design Tips
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LET YOUR HARDWOOD DECKING ACCLIMATE!
The very best thing you can do for your new exterior hardwood decking is to allow each deck board to acclimate properly on site. Please don't skip this step. Why is this so important? Because all woods expand and contract with moisture, especially when they first arrive on your property.
If you install your new deck boards without letting them adjust to your site conditions first, they will move afterwards. It will be out of your control. But when you allow your wood to acclimate and adjust to your site conditions first, it puts you in control the process.
Proper acclimation of hardwood decking on site is a critical success factor
Yes, it is a little extra work to do this, and it is absolutely worth it. Most all of the initial movement (expansion and contraction) will be complete. now when you install the decking, the gaps between the boards will
ALWAYS START WITH A UV INHIBITING SEALER
The second best you can do for your hardwood deck is to apply a coat of UV-inhibiting finish. Whether or not you want your decking or siding to silver out eventually, it is best to protect your exterior wood with a UV inhibiting sealer (like Penofin Hardwood Formula) for the first year while it seasons in place. Pre-finishing all 4 sides of the wood (top, bottom, and the 2 edges) before installing it works best. This helps to minimize surface checking. It's almost like putting on sunscreen before you go to the beach for the first time of the year.
Applying an oil finish to your deck is a huge help as your deck 'seasons' during its first year
After your initial coat of finish is applied to your decking, an annual maintenance coat will help keep the coloration vibrant and graining variations visible for many years to come. An additional advantage of using an oil finish is that it prevents most common household beverages and foods from penetrating (and possibly staining) your deck surface.
The face of the decking or siding will weather the fastest and this will help minimize surface checking. That means your decking will look better, longer. Meanwhile, the other 3 sides of each deck board are protected for years. Penofin Hardwood Formula will enhance and enrich the natural colors of the deck wood and offer UV protection as well as mildew and mold protection to each deck board.
LOW MAINTENANCE DECKING OPTION:
If you don’t want to keep oiling your decking regularly, you don’t have to. Go ahead and let your deck boards silver out. So, if you would like your hardwood decking to weather naturally to a delicate silvery-gray patina, there is very little that needs to be done after installation. Let it go gray. The initial coat of UV inhibiting sealer has already done its job.
Hardwood decking will last for decades without refinishing for a silvery driftwood colored appearance
You can simply allow the weather and environmental conditions to naturally season your deck boards. Bear in mind that each board has unique characteristics, and each board (and portions of each board) will weather at different rates. The amount of direct and indirect sunlight, temperature, humidity, moisture, and all other conditions of the microclimate of your job site area will factor into the time and shading of your new deck or hardwood siding project.
WHAT IF I CHANGE MY MIND ABOUT THE FINISH?
Great news! It’s never too late to change your mind. For example, if you decide to put oil finish on a deck that you originally allowed to weather to a gray patina, simply clean and brighten your deck with deck cleaning products or sand off the gray patina and apply a coat of finish.
Alternately, if you originally oiled your deck and now wish it to weather naturally, you may simply allow the oils to weather out over a few years.
KEEPING YOUR DECKING LOOKING GREAT:
No matter what kind of decking or siding you have, (wood, vinyl, metal or synthetic), an annual cleaning is an excellent idea. All the naturally occurring outdoor elements; molds, pollen, leaves, tree tannins, mildew, dirt, acid rain residue, etc. will settle and accumulate on your wood surface. As molds, mildews and fungus thrive on moisture and a food source to grow, removing this accumulation of debris is a sensible idea on all deck surfaces to keep them sanitary and looking their best.
CLEANING YOUR HARDWOOD DECK:
The Best Way to Clean your Hardwood Deck
First Step: If your decking has a stain or sealer on it, the best first step is to use a stripper to remove it. Now you are down to the bare boards. If you didn’t use a sealer, or your Penofin Hardwood Formula sealer has worn off, you can skip this step.
Second Step: The most effective way we have tested to clean a hardwood deck is to use Penofin Pro-Tech Wood Cleaner. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results. Wet the decking. Spray on some of the wood cleaning solution, let it go to work, then scrub it with a stiff bristle street broom. This step removes dirt and kills mold.
Third Step: (If needed) To brighten and pH balance your decking, you can use a product such as Penofin Pro-Tech Wood Brightener.
If your decking is gouged or scratched, a little light sanding may be needed to remove the scratches. Sand lightly with an 80-grit sandpaper, following the grain of the wood for best results.
An alternative method of cleaning is to pressure wash the deck surface. Mataverde® Premium Hardwood Decking is very hard and Ipe, Cumaru, Machiche, Jatoba and Garapa are all high-density close-grained hardwoods that resist deep penetration of molds and mildew. You must use the proper PSI for the species of wood you are cleaning. The lowest possible PSI that will remove dirt and debris is recommended.
Be careful not to gouge the wood. Test an inconspicuous area first and be careful to use the wand in even strokes to avoid lap marks. If you are uncomfortable with cleaning or power washing your exterior hardwood yourself, there are many professionals listed at http://directory.pressurenet.net.
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