5 Tips to Keep Your Wood Deck Looking Its Best


A wood deck is a welcome home addition for many reasons. It’s a nice architectural element, it enhances the backyard and it offers a place for relaxation.

It’s also eco-friendly. Real wood is a renewable building material that’s durable, easy to work with and affordable. Plus, the production of wood decking has minimal environmental impact.

But a deck requires a lot of upkeep. You need to give it a visual inspection at least once a year to make sure it’s in good shape. Otherwise, it won’t last long at all.

Consider this your deck maintenance checklist. Here are the basics to care for your wood deck so it has a long life.

Drive deck nails into deck

1. Look for Loose Nails

Deck nails have a way of rising up as the structure ages, causing a serious tripping hazard.

If you see a nail sticking out of a deck board, you have two solutions:

• Drive the nail back into place. (Just make sure the nail isn’t flush, but below, the surface. That way, if the nail pops up a bit, it won’t be in the way.)

Watch ‘How to Fix a Deck with Loose Nails’ for details.

• Replace the nail with coated, rust-resistant deck screws. Deckmate fasteners will stay in place, completely removing the concern about a nail tripping or sticking someone.

Watch ‘Deckmate Fasteners Help You Finish a Job Faster’ for more details.

Deck sap

2. Check for Sap

Sap that’s loaded with nutrients and minerals is, basically, a tree’s blood, but it’s not uncommon for deck boards to ooze this stuff.

When lumber is kiln-dried, the sap inside crystallizes from the high heat. However, temperature and humidity changes can cause this solid to dissolve — or ooze.

To remove the sap, try submerging the troubled areas with Murphy’s Oil. You can also use WD-40 or acetone, but this method may damage the deck’s finish.

Of course, if weather freezes the sap, you can scrape it off with a putty knife.

Closeup of a pressure washer shooting out water on a deck during a cleaning.

3. Clean Your Deck

Wood decks are exposed to the elements year-round and take constant abuse. That’s why cleaning and refinishing them is so important.

First, wear protective eyewear and gloves and apply deck cleaner with a pump sprayer. Let it set for the recommended time, according to the directions.

Next, pressure wash the deck. Give it an even spray and don’t linger on one area for too long or you could damage the deck. Let everything dry before refinishing.

Closeup of a man's hand holding a paintbrush as he stains a wood deck
(Credit: ©Sayayute, Adobe Stock Photos)

4. Refinish the Deck

You’d be surprised how many homeowners don’t know that they need to regularly refinish their deck. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a must for anyone who owns a wood deck.

There are two options: tinted deck stain or clear sealer. Solid deck stains hide the grain of the wood; semitransparent shades allow the wood grain to show through.  

Stains and sealers are much thinner than paint, so you can apply them using a pump sprayer as well. Just go over the entire deck with a paintbrush to spread everything evenly.

Watch, ‘How to Clean and Finish a Wood Deck’ for more information.

Danny Lipford removes rotting deck boards from summer home

5. Replace Old Decking

No matter how well you maintain a wood deck, you can’t avoid the inevitable: rot and deterioration. If you’ve got badly cracked, warped or rotting wood, you need to just replace the old deck boards with new ones.

Watch ‘How to Remove and Replace Wood Decking’ for more information.

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