How To Revive Your Deck

Porch season is in full swing—a perfect reason to refresh your garden structures and outdoor railings.

Applying stain or sealer with a sponge mop will save your knees. (Photo: Courtesy Thompson’s WaterSeal)

Don’t assume a deck that looks bad is past restoring unless the damage is obvious: failing boards, loose fasteners, or a rotting foundation. If the wood is still solid, with few splits, checks, or loose fasteners, a good overhaul with a cleaner should remove most of the mildew and dirt.

Unlike a wood-sided house, you can successfully pressure-clean a deck. Use less pressure (1200 to 1500 psi) for soft woods like redwood or cedar. Then let the wood thoroughly dry before applying stain or sealer.

Never paint a deck; stains are less likely to pop or peel and are much easier to refresh. (Reviving paint usually requires sanding or scraping; stained boards can be refreshed with a new coat as often as you like with minimal prep work.)

Depending on how your deck looks once it’s dry, choose a clear sealer or one that contains a tint from semi-transparent to solid color. Once it’s been sealed and finished, your deck should look good until it’s time for another cleaning or coat of stain.

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Add Character

The alternating spindles on the deck railing resonate with the lines of casement windows on a circa 1910 stone and stucco house. (Photo: Rob Cardillo)

There’s no reason a deck should look out of place on a period house. For ideas on how to give a deck character, turn to architectural elements on your own house and in the surrounding landscape. Specifically:

1. Stone and Brickwork
Use brick or stone on the house or in the surrounding yard or complementary materials as inspiration for both flat surfaces and enclosures. Or make use of locally available materials with some history, like bluestone in the mid-Atlantic. Since brick and stone are heavy materials, keep enclosures low and relatively open.

2. Garden Structures
Arbors, pergolas, and treillage have been popular in yards and gardens for more than 100 years. Why not use them to provide visual interest on a deck? A pergola attached to the back of a house not only provides shade, but also turns the raw flat space of a contemporary deck into an extension of a period house.

3. Railings
Look for patterns on railings or other millwork inside or outside the house that can be adapted for a deck or patio enclosure. Simplify ornate patterns. Rather than copy a complex piece of fretwork, for instance, choose one element as inspiration for a railing.

Tags: Old-House Journal outdoor & porch Mary Ellen Polson OHJ May 2015

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