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Tips on Deck and Patio Maintenance from Mr. Handyman

Beth Asaff
Mr. Handyman

Decks and patios are two areas of the home that frequently get overlooked in terms of upkeep, maintenance and style. Todd Recknage, President and CEO of Mr. Handyman International, has some tips for keeping these two areas looking their best.

The Importance of Regular Deck and Patio Maintenance

LoveToKnow (LTK): Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Many people have patios and decks installed near their homes. Can you tell us why regular care for these areas is so important?

Todd Recknage (TR): Maintaining a home's deck or patio is important to the overall visual appeal as well as its safety and longevity. Make sure the nails are pounded flat, the stain finish is smooth and plants and flowers are watered. Neglect of maintaining a deck will cost you more in the long run because as the wood dries out it will warp and crack and will need to be replaced.

LTK: If someone has pressure treated wood on his deck, does it require different maintenance than non-pressure treated wood?

TR: "Pressure-treated lumber" is wood that has been immersed in a liquid preservative and placed in a press chamber. The treatment does not mean the wood has been waterproofed, which is the most important step in protecting it from sun, water and wear from furniture and foot traffic. Areas with extreme sun exposure to the deck should consider refinishing every year, while more mild areas can go a few years between cleaning and refinishing with waterproof coating or stain.

LTK: What about composites?

TR: While composites are not as susceptible to the elements as lumber, they do require maintenance to keep them looking their best. Like any product, the durability depends on the amount of wood fiber that is in the particular composite. Some composites can actually be more troublesome than wood as water is absorbed and mold and mildew form from the inside out, causing a permanent stain. Some composites are soft, and can scratch or scar, as well as absorb such things as cooking oil, which can permanently stain them.

LTK: Are there signs to watch out for that your deck may need some additional work, like board or bracket replacements? What are some of the signs of excess wear?

TR: Any spongy area in a deck is a cause for alarm. Knots in the lumber are susceptible to temperature changes; as they expand and contract with the seasons, temperature and weather, they do it at a different rate than the wood grain they are embedded in. As a result, the knots may one day fall, out taking the stability of the lumber with them.

LTK: How often should a deck be re-stained?

TR: There are many variables that dictate how often a deck should be stained. Those include the climate, location (northern exposure, damp or wet locations, or full sun), te wear and traffic that are on it and last but not least, personal preference (did last year's avocado green go out of style?).

Making Your Deck or Patio Stand Out

LTK: Are there special tasks that a stone or brick patio would require to keep it looking great? Are there any that a DIY homeowner could take on, or is it strictly professional?

TR: Stone, brick or even the cement slabs all have the same enemy - cracks. Cracks provide a place for weeds to grow, a place for ants to go, as well as a place for water and moisture to get in and slowly wash away the base that holds them up, which in turn can make an unsightly, uneven surface. Cracks also trap grass clippings, mold and mildew growth and therefore must be cleaned to keep the appearance looking new.

LTK: Do you have any tricks for really making a patio stand out and become the focal point of the yard?

TR: Shade structures, potted plants, water features or other landscaping can make a stone-cold man-made patio feel as natural as the landscape or make it seem as if it belongs where it is.

LTK: If someone were planning on installing a new patio, is there one material you recommend over another that is easier to maintain as time goes by? Why?

TR: Concrete is underrated. It doesn't have to look like the freeway anymore. It can be dyed and stamped with a pattern that resembles the most expensive brick paver patio, but without the costs or the many, many seams and cracks that make a patio venerable to climate, weather, insects and weeds.

LTK: What about decking materials?

TR: Pressure-treated lumber is pretty much the minimal requirement for a deck. And composite, although much more pricey, has minimal maintenance requirements and can be bent. And with the ability to bend, deck design is not limited by dimensions, just imagination. The best decking material has a very high PVC content. This material is almost completely non-porous and is very scratch resistant. Pressure cleaning annually will keep it looking new and it never has to be stained or sealed like a wood product.

Yearly Deck and Patio Maintenance

LTK: Finally, are there any areas of deck and patio maintenance frequently overlooked by homeowners that need attention?

TR: I don't know if you would call it "overlooked," but lots of decks and patios suffer from procrastination. The old, "I'll get to it next year." Sometimes next year doesn't figure into the plans either, or the year after. Then the climate, weather and other factors take their toll and instead of simple annual maintenance, you have major problems. An ounce of medicine truly is worth a pound of cure.

For more helpful home repair tips, please visit our blog.

Make Your Outdoor Living Areas More Inviting

It can be easy to overlook the maintenance your patio or deck needs to look its best. With a little help, however, you can increase your home's curb appeal and take more pleasure in spending time in your yard. Many thanks to Mr. Handyman for these great tips.

Tips on Deck and Patio Maintenance from Mr. Handyman