Tips on Deck Protection and Repair Tips

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How do I strip a deck?

Stripping a Deck

What's the most important thing you can do to a deck before you seal it? As those old do-it-yourselfers, Devo, might say, "You've got to strip it." Stripping is essential first step for creating an even surface that the new sealant can adhere to. If the high-traffic areas of your deck have worn down, but there is still sealant remaining in other areas, you should strip the entire deck before you re-stain. If you are changing your deck's colors, stripping is absolutely necessary. Traces of an old color left underneath will affect the way a new color appears. So which stripper is right for your job? Depends on what you need to do. If you are removing clear and toned finishes and sealers, you'll need less stripping power. If you are removing semi-transparent or opaque stains, you'll need more power. Check the manufacturer's instructions to determine which stripper will work best for you.

How do I repair decayed wood in my deck?

Repairing Decayed Wood

Like everything else, successfully repairing decayed wood can be made easier if you know a few handy hints. For example, epoxy dries very fast and is very hard to remove. So it is wise to clean up as you go along. Here are a few more tips:

• Build up deep holes in layers about 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick. Slightly overfill a flat surface.
• Shape the filler with any tool that seems appropriate on contoured surfaces or corners.
• Rasps are available in a wide variety of shapes for use on flat and contoured surfaces.
• Rasping is not required, but it can be a lot less time-consuming than sanding if you have a lot of hard, dried material to get rid of.
• Drive nails into large damaged areas and let the heads stick up a little so they will be embedded in the filler, but lie below the finished surface.
• You can cut, shape, smooth and drill into cured epoxy just as you can wood.
• Read warning labels and wear goggles, gloves, a dust mask and any other recommended protective equipment while working.

What's the deal on opaque stains?

Opaque Sealers

So, you want to stain your deck with an opaque sealer. Before you go out and spend your money, here are a few tips on deck protection and repair:

• The more opaque a stain, the quicker it will show wearing and weathering. A solid stain might need to be re-applied every year, while a clear or wood-toned treatment will most likely last longer.
• Solid/opaque stains are better suited for vertical surfaces (railings, pillars, caps) than for horizontal (decking, stairs). The wearing from foot traffic is particularly noticeable with an opaque stain, and it's possible to track the residue inside the house.
• Solid/opaque stains do not show the grain of the wood. (That's why they're called opaque, duh.) All others do.
• Darker colors, particularly solid/opaque and semitransparent stains, absorb heat more easily. Walking barefoot on a bright, sunny day could be an ordeal. On a design note, choose a color that matches or contrasts nicely with the siding on your house. Use the color wheel to see which colors go best together. Also, if you want to get artsy, choose two or more colors that work together for decking and rails, post caps, stencil work, etc.

Why should I seal my deck?

Sealing a Deck

Everybody knows that if you leave wood exposed to the sun, wind, and rain, it won't be good for much except burning. Leave your deck untreated and you can expect it to turn grey with age. What's more, the decking boards are likely to cup, warp, and split. Let this go on too long, and you'll be facing major repairs — or even replacing sections of the deck. Sealing your deck is a three-part process that involves removing old stains or coatings, cleaning the wood, and sealing it against weather damage. If your deck has never been sealed, you obviously won't have to strip it. But brand new wood will require special pre-stain preparation. Finally, as always, work safely. Wear rubber gloves, close-toed shoes, a long-sleeved shirt and pants when applying deck chemicals to minimize the chance of skin irritation. Also, wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from back spray. Follow all manufacturer's safety instructions.

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