Now I know it's hard to believe, but lurking underneath this decking right here is something that used to look like this. That's right. But with exposure to weather and sunlight, this turned into this. But the good news is, with just a little bit of effort, you can reclaim the natural splendor of your deck. Drenching rain and baking sun are your deck's two biggest enemies. Sunlight's ultraviolet rays deteriorate and discolor wood and the cycle of repeated rain soakings and drying can cause decks to splinter, warp and crack.
There's also a third culprit: dirt. A power washer is one of the most effective ways to clean many things around your home, including your deck. A pressure washer is essentially a pump and nozzle that create a high pressure cleaning effect by boosting household water pressure 30 or 40 times.
For decks that are dirty but otherwise in good shape, a power washer can be a simple and every fast way to clean the surface. The high pressure water has a sort of scrubbing action that loosens surface dirt and flushes it away, often without the need for soaps or detergents.
There is one caveat though: keep the nozzle several inches away from the surface and maintain a sweeping motion. It's possible to actually cut into, or etch, the wood, if the tip gets too close.
Sometimes though, cleaning alone just isn't enough. That's when I go for a deck wash and brightener. These are usually a combination of detergent and some form of bleach. The fastest and easiest way to apply them is with a pump sprayer.
If I'm working in direct sunlight or it's a particularly warm day, I wet the surface beforehand with a garden hose. Then begin applying the wash and brightener, working a section at a time. A long-handled brush removes dead cells and works the material into the surface.
Remember, though, that chemicals will do most of the work. I like to let the wash and brightener sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Then I rinse the wood thoroughly. The results really are quite remarkable. Want to see it again? Prewet the surface, apply the wash and brightener with a pump sprayer, scrub lightly, wait a few minutes, and rinse.
Let's take a look at the results. Now this is the control panel right here. I didn't do anything to this. And these two over here were power washed only. This one got clean but it's still fairly dark in color. This one -- well, interesting. Part of these boards lightened up a bit, part of them are still gray, and then there's this nasty stain right down here.
And then this panel here, I only used the deck wash and brightener. Now let's apply a bit of clean and brightener to that stain, do a light scrubbing and give it a rinse. So the ultimate might be a power washing, followed by the deck wash and brightener. Well, the decking has been cleaned and the wood lightened and brightened, but if left untreated, this would soon turn back into this.
A waterproofing sealer enables wood to repel moisture. Wood protectors like this one also have UV filters that shield wood from ultraviolet light. Wood protectors can be either clear or tinted. Tinted sealers can disguise surface imperfections and create a deeper, richer look.
The fastest way to apply a sealer is with a pump sprayer. Do small sections at a time, keeping the sprayer tip about one to two feet from the surface. When spraying, it's also important to back brush the waterproofer, in order to work it well into the surface.
Another method is to pour the wood protector into a tray, dip a long-handled painting pad into the sealer, press out the excess, and apply the material with long, even, overlapping strokes. Now, I like this technique because it allows me to put on the sealer and back brush in one operation.
To keep your deck looking its best, you'll want to sweep it and hose it off regularly, and if it gets really dirty, why, you can clean it with some soap or detergent. Now depending on how much sun your decking gets, you'll want to reapply your waterproofer every year or two.
So even if your deck does look like this, with a little bit of work, it can look like this or this or this and stand up to the rigors of the sun and the rain.