Reviving Dingy and Discolored Outdoor Decks
Friends and Foes of Wooden Decking
They’re present all season long – sunlight, rain, heat and airborne dirt – the enemies of any outdoor wooden deck. Together they can take a shocking toll on wood, leaving the planks discolored, dirty, cracked, split and even warped. Despite how forlorn a deck may look, it can unusually be restored to its former glory and kept that way. Here’s what to do.
Repair the Damage
Warped and twisted boards can often be leveraged back into position with a simple tool made from a 4-foot piece of two by four. Cut a notch near one end, slip the notch over the end of the deck board and drive in pairs of 3-inch, rust-resistant deck screws at slighting opposing angles. The screws will lock the board into its rightful position.
Too Far Gone
Some planks may, of course, may be beyond reclamation leaving no other option than to replace them. Old nails can be pulled out using a pronged pry bar called a cat’s paw; its claw-like head is designed to be driven under nail heads allowing them to be leverage out. For decking screws with stripped heads, consider a friction gel like Screw Grab. Good demos in the video.
Nails and even deck screws have a way of working themselves upward leaving the heads protruding above the surface. Countersink these pop-up fasteners just enough to prevent toe stubbing and to improve their holding ability. Avoid driving them in too deeply, however, which can create small craters that catch and hold water. For nails, a large drift pin is the tool of choice.
Clean and Brighten the Wood
Most deck discoloration is only surface deep and is the result of oxidation and plain old dirt the settles on the surface gradually over time. So, reviving color is really a two-step process: cleaning and brightening. While you can make your own cleaning and brightening solutions from detergents and compounds like oxalic acid, a simple an easier way is to use a cleaner/brightener made especially for decks like Thompson’s 3 in 1 Wood Cleaner. The easiest way to apply these products is with a pump sprayer. For best results, they should be scrubbed into the surface with a long handled brush and rinsed thoroughly.
Pressure Washers Work Well, But ...
Pressure washers clean decks by removing a thin layer of discolored wood cells from the surface. Use a 30-degree nozzle and be careful not to get the pressure tip too close to the surface – doing so can actually etch the wood (watch the video and you’ll see what I mean).
The Best Friend a Deck Could Have
A freshly cleaned and restored deck is a thing of beauty. But, trust me, it will not stay that way long without a protective sealer. These coatings can be clear or have added color in varying amounts from transparent to semi-transparent to solid. This Thompson’s WaterSeal page offers a good comparison of the different versions as well as a color selection guide. I suggest watching the video for useful application tips and techniques.