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When it comes to keeping your deck from going rotten on you, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Follow these nine tips on deck protection and repair to keep your deck in tip-top shape all year round:
1. Use naturally decay-resistant or treated lumber for decks and other outdoor structures. Never allow untreated lumber posts or lumber to rest directly on concrete.
2. Clean joints between deck boards or between a deck and a house so debris and dirt won't retain moisture.
3. Inspect for peeling paint or other paint failures, especially near joints, such as mitered trim corners at roof eaves or where window and door casings contact sills.
4. Probe these areas with an awl to search for soft or wet, spongy wood (wood that resists being probed is sound).
5. Seal cracks with caulk. If possible, use screws to close any open miter joints. Bore pilot holes for the screws to avoid splitting the wood, and then inject adhesive caulk into the joint before driving in the screws.
6. Sand any bare wood and apply wood preservative before you apply a primer. Caulk joints after priming and before the top coating. Preservative greatly increases the likelihood of a better, longer-lasting paint bond.
7. Create ventilation through trimmed posts or columns by providing space for air to circulate between the trim and the floor surface and an outlet vent at the top. In some cases, this requires cutting 1/2 inch (12 mm) off the bottom of the trim. Lay a board that's 1/2-inch (12-mm) thick on the floor against the post and rest a handsaw on the board as you make the cut. Use small metal louvers pressed into drilled holes to vent the tops of posts or columns.
8. Avoid positioning outdoor sheds, such as one for trash cans, against wood siding. Elevate sheds above the ground on concrete blocks or short sections of 6-by-6-inch (15-by-15-cm) pressure-treated posts.
9. Make sure crawl-space vents remain open, especially during the summer, or add vents where there are none.