With Deck Safety Month® upon us, it's worth it to consider the role ongoing maintenance plays in keeping your backyard a safe and functional space. With a little bit of care and attention, it's possible to prevent damage that can make your composite deck unsafe. Not only that, you'll extend the life of this important part of the backyard, and ultimately save money and time.
Any ambitious homeowner should be able to take care of regular deck maintenance on their own. However, if you have any concerns or are unsure about whether or not a part of your deck requires repair, be sure to call a professional. Damage that's left unattended can potentially lead to expensive repairs that would be avoidable if caught earlier. With that in mind, here are some deck maintenance tips to follow.
Deck Maintenance Warning Signs
In order to properly maintain your composite decking, it's important to know the difference between regular wear and tear and severe damage. Some things to look for include:
- Split support structures. Particular areas of concern include the spot where the deck attaches to your house, known as the ledger board, as well as the support posts and joists, stairs and railings. Look at any areas with scuffs to make sure they haven't caused the board to split or splinter, though this is rare with composite decks.
- Loose or damaged flashing and fasteners. Flashing — the metal or plastic guards that keep water from accumulating — and fasteners keep your deck secure and structurally sound. Look for loose or rusted hardware, nails or bolts that have popped up, and replace anything that appears worn out. Also, check your deck structure for sagging or sway, as either can indicate a problem.
- Insecure stairs and railings. You never know when you may need a railing for support. Make sure all deck railings and stairs are securely in place and capable of supporting your weight. If you "jiggle" your handrail and it moves with ease, you'll need to check its fasteners. You should also keep stairs clear of flower planters and other potential tripping hazards.
- Lighting and electrical issues. Adequate lighting is critical to deck safety, plus it lets you host family gatherings into the evening. At the same time, any electrical connections must be up to code. Make sure there are no loose cords and that all outlets are safe and secure.
Catching these and other problems early can save you both time and money, and avoid repairs that can interrupt your enjoyment of the summer.
Keeping Your Deck Well Maintained
Even if everything on your decking and railings looks OK, a small amount of regular maintenance will extend their life even further. Some easy things you can do include:
- Clearing away leaves and other debris that accumulate. Not only do they pose a slipping hazard, but they also take away from the natural beauty of your deck.
- Washing the deck with a garden hose or, ideally, a pressure washer. Use a little dish soap - Dawn works great - to clean any dirty areas. This step will keep your deck clean throughout the year and have it looking brand new.
- Pruning any large trees hanging over your deck. In the event of a storm, falling branches can cause not only expensive damage but more work for you.
- Rotating planters, furniture and other items on your deck. If left too long in one spot, they can cause discoloration or other signs of wear.
While outdoor deck maintenance requires some time and attention, the features of composite decks make them much easier to maintain, in comparison to wood decks. And while they require a higher upfront investment, their long-lasting performance and comprehensive warranties make them a purchase that's an investment — not a purchase that decreases in value, like a vehicle.
The best part? If you're vigilant about cleaning your composite deck and maintaining it, you can extend its life well into the future.