How to Prepare and Protect Your Deck for the Winter Season

Winter is coming. Can your deck hold up to it?

When it comes to winterizing a home, your mind may jump to the basics: clearing gutters, checking your heating system, and inspecting pipe insulation, for example. But a deck is a huge investment, especially if you’ve opted for a custom option, which is why it’s important to take a few basic steps to protect your deck from the worst of winter’s storms.

If you’re not sure what kind of outdoor wood deck protection you need, here are a few of our best tips on how to protect your decking from the weather.

1. Clean It Up

Before you do anything else, get started by clearing away any clutter on your deck. As you winterize your home, consider clearing away any items you won’t use during the winter.

This includes any patio furniture you won’t use during cold weather. Metal furniture can rust in winter weather, causing unsightly stains on your deck, and wood furniture can invite rot and moisture that can spread to your deck as well. Make sure to winterize and stow what you won’t use.

In addition, you’ll want to remove your planters from your deck as well. Planters in particular can leech moisture and cause discoloration, so it’s a good idea to store them under your deck or in a garage when they aren’t needed.

Next, scrub away any leaves, pine needles, dirt, or debris. When they build up on the surface of your deck, they can allow precipitation to remain in place, locking in moisture that causes rot and other structural damage or discoloration.

2. Take Care of Mildew and Weak Spots

Mildew causes unsightly discolorations, but it’s more than an aesthetic nuisance. Untreated mildew can spread and cause further damage if left alone throughout the winter. Take some time to inspect your entire deck for areas where moisture may have hidden.

To eliminate any mildew you find, you can create a quick cleaning solution from three quarts of water, one quart of bleach, and a quarter cup of ammonia-free liquid dish detergent. Alternatively, you can buy a commercial product. Use a garden sprayer to apply this mixture to the surface of your deck and let it sit for half an hour before rinsing it away with water.

At this time, it’s also a good idea to check for any loose railings that need replacement, as well as hardware that should be tightened. Walk across the surface and feel for spongy deck boards or signs of give. Replacing a board or two can be an easy DIY project, but if you’ve noticed that the issue is widespread, it may be time to tear down your deck.

3. Check for Peeling Paint

Like mildew, peeling paint is more than an aesthetic issue with your deck. When paint peels, it can expose the material underneath to the worst of winter’s precipitation.

If you’ve noticed cracks in your paint, or if flecks of paint come away when you stick and remove a piece of tape from your deck’s surface, you’ll want to repaint your deck.

To do this project right, you’ll have to prepare your deck by removing the old coat of paint. Your options here include either sanding or scraping off the old surface material.

This work will require a fair amount of elbow grease, especially once you move on to the next step. However, the end result will be a deck that looks appealing and remains damage-free even as the months stretch into springtime.

4. Apply Protective Seal or Paint

Once you’ve prepared your deck, you can apply a new protective coat of paint or stain.

Whatever look you’re going for, you’ll want to opt for something with a water-repellent finish. While snow is rare in this part of California, homeowners can still expect to receive our typical cold rain and occasional wintery mixes of sleet or hail. As a result, you’ll need to provide your deck with strong protection from the elements.

5. Cover Your Deck With Tarp

This last step is optional, and not all types of decks will need it. However, if you know you won’t be using your deck for several months, and if you want to prevent moisture from collecting on its surface, a tarp can be one of the best deck protection options.

For this to work, opt for a non-porous and heavy tarp. You should look for the same kind of tarp you’d use to protect a pool in the winter.

Using a tarp can help prevent the buildup of mildew, and it can also keep certain deck materials from warping over time.

6. Inspect and Clean Your Deck Regularly

Luckily, we won’t have to worry about removing the layers of snow that build up in other areas of the country. However, you’ll still want to keep an eye on your deck throughout the winter, especially if you’ve opted not to cover it with a tarp.

Allowing mounds of twigs, leaves, pine needles, and other debris to build on your deck is a bad idea. Sweep away any piles that accumulate to keep them from trapping cold moisture over your deck, especially after heavy winter storms.

Protect Your Deck From Winter’s Chill

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to protect your deck from the worst winter weather. Following this basic guide can help prepare your investment to weather cold temperatures and moisture, safeguarding your space for the warmth of spring.

Considering your decking options? Check out what we can do for you, or schedule an appointment to learn more from our team!