Maintaining your timber deckings – four simple tricks of the trade
For those of us that are lucky enough to own the charm and the centrepiece for all that’s good about the backyard in the form of a beautiful timber deck, we don’t have to mention just how hard it can be to keep them in shape.
Always open and exposed to the elements, your timber decking can very quickly be worn down and lose its immediate impact if not properly looked after.
Some of the common pitfalls that occur can be rain related, heavy foot traffic, heavy use otherwise, and even fading from being exposed to the sun’s powerful rays.
Regularly caring for your deck then is, evidently, one of the most important aspects of home maintenance that you need to carry out.
However, the common mistake that many make is that caring for timber decks is often highly labour intensive, or requires a medley of different tools and expensive products. This is not the case, with the majority of ways to look after your grand backyard stage being very simple and easy to do on your own.
In this article we are going to whip through a few ways in which you can not just make sure your timber deck lasts for a long time to come, but also a few pointers on how to visually keep it looking awesome year in and year out.
Each of these little tips of the trade only require a very minor little bit of elbow work. Where you’ll need to head out to a hardware store, the tools you’ll need to get will prove to be inexpensive and readily accessible at every store.
If you live further out from the main city centres, chances are you’ve seen how your timber decking is basically a loud beacon for all manners of avian species.
You’ve also probably be accustomed to having to sweep the decking free of leaves, twigs, and almost anything else that nature can throw at you seemingly to cause inconvenience.
What many look past is that debris, both of the bird droppings and twig-and-branch variety, can often harm your decking if left unattended for a long period of time.
Bird droppings, in particular, can have an almost acidic property to them that will eat away at any varnish or coating that your deck has had previously. This can lead to a visual symptom whereas the coat will be destroyed, leaving behind unsightly blotches all over the decking.
Stray leaves and twigs, especially if it has been raining recently, can have a similar impact. Damp leaves are the chief offender here, as if left on the timber, moisture can actually seep in and expand, commonly leading to lifting the decking from its hinges.
Any and all debris should be removed as quickly as possible. A broom is your best friend here, as it will be more than effective in brushing away any bird droppings before the damage is done.
The coating on your timber decking is basically a safeguard that defends it from prolonged exposure to harmful sunlight, excessive rain, and general wear and tear.
Many timber deckings, believe it or not, do not have any form of coat on them whatsoever, with some homeowners often confusing the cosmetic effect of staining as a protective varnish.
Without a coat, you can expect your decking to showcase ill effects of spilt liquid and the fading of the timber. This fading will make even the most toughest and most elegant of timbers such as pine look weathered and old beyond its years.
There are many outdoor specific varnishes on the market nowadays that will do the job just fine, whilst also proving to be very affordable. Covering the decking in such a coat is also not as tough as say painting the exterior of the house, all it will need is half a day of work and a suitable time to dry.
What’s more, by using a coat over your decking, you’ll be preserving both its look and its strength for a long time to come. Which is a win-win situation in anyone’s book.
One of the biggest visual detractors of a fine timber deck is the appearance of what look like cracks either running along or across the individual planks of wood that make up your decking.
These cracks, whilst looking unsightly, rarely pose a structural integrity problem. One indicator of this is whether the resulting splint or gap in the timber appears to have “buckled”, of which then you will have a problem.
There is a common misconception, however, that even the smallest of gaps or splints appearing in the timber of your decking is a symbol that that particular plank needs to be replaced.
This isn’t the case, and actually you’ll save a heap of time and money by simply using a sealant chalk and a little bit of sandpaper.
Sealant chalk can come in the form of a sealant gun, and requires very little effort or knowledge to use apart from squeezing a trigger. Simply ease the chalk into the gap, making sure it fills in completely, then let it dry.
Afterwards, you may wish to go over the area with very fine sandpaper. This will make sure that the chalk has not bubbled over and caused lumps, whilst also just keeping the uniform appearance of the timber.
Not only will this remove the splint or gap, but it will also help friends and family from tripping over them, saving you blushes and explanations as to why it was there in the first place.
4. Loose nails
Speaking of tripping over, one of the biggest problems that many find are loose or stray nails appearing on the joins of the timber decking.
Fortunately, this isn’t a sign that your deck is coming apart at the seams. Rather, it can be just a sign that your timber decking is well loved by all, basically a symptom of heavy use, either under foot or from furniture placed on it.
Loose nails tend to occur more so during the summertime, as the heat forces the timber to contract and expand as the temperature rises and falls during the days and nights. So during the hotter months, it is worth keeping an eye on your deck, and a hammer in your hand, just to iron out any strays that are creeping out of place.
A simple tap is all that is required to get the nail back in place for a while yet to come.
If your decking has screws, rather than nails, be careful to keep the original screw position upright. The screw can come loose and, along with the timber expanding, can often lose its “thread”. Try to avoid using screws along timber joins as well, as this can damage the planks that it is connecting with.