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Wood Deck Maintenance Tips

(HIT) - To stain or not to stain. Sealers versus wood preservatives. When to use a toner and when to wash it down? Maintaining wood decks was never meant to be this confusing.

Today, homeowners are faced with as many deck maintenance solutions as they are potential problems for their wood decks. With no shortage of options on how to care for a deck, the question remains: "Who has the right answers?"

"The confusion in the marketplace is justified. If you ask 10 people how to care for a deck, you’ll get 11 answers," said Debbie Joseph, senior brand manager for Cuprinol Wood Care Products. "Everyone has his or her own opinion on when to waterproof, how often to stain, etc. The truth is, caring for a deck is actually quite simple."

With two million decks being built each year, it’s no wonder there are a slew of products—and even more advice—being offered for every conceivable wood deck-related maintenance problem.

With clear sealers, semi-transparent stains, wood toners and solid stains to choose from—not to mention those that have every conceivable combination of UV protection, mildewcide and waterproofing—it’s easy to see how consumers can find themselves getting "decked" by an overload of maintenance choices.

The mistakes homeowners make in caring for their wood decks are equally divided between buying the wrong products and not using them properly. "Too often, homeowners are using the right product at the wrong time, or they’re using a product that doesn’t feature the proper protective elements," Cuprinol’s Joseph says.

Deck Maintenance Do’s And Don’ts

Joseph finds that most homeowners go to extremes when it comes to deck care and maintenance: they either do too much or too little in caring for their wood. Some err in the face of caution, while others, especially those with pressure-treated wood, are under the impression that the wood will take care of itself. Either way, both are the recipe for a damaged deck.

Her list of wood deck maintenance do’s and don’ts:

  • Do conduct a simple "water test" on a new piece of wood. If drops of water bead up, don’t do anything. If they get absorbed into the wood, apply your treatment.
  • Don’t use siding maintenance products on wood decks (they don’t have the durability for foot-traffic).
  • Don’t be misled thinking pressure-treated wood doesn’t require maintenance; it may not need protection from rotting, but it does need to be cleaned, stained or sealed to prevent splitting, drying, cracking and graying.
  • Don’t think paint will work better than stain. Stains don’t require as much surface preparation, and the fading of stain is less noticeable than the cracking and peeling of paint.
  • Do wash with special deck cleaners as needed (usually once a year) to remove mildew and dirt. Deck cleaners also enhance the natural wood tone. Use either a liquid deck cleaner, such as Cuprinol’s Revive Liquid Deck Wash, or a more environmentally-friendly, biodegradable wood deck maintenance product, like Cuprinol’s Revive Deck Cleaner.

Getting "All Decked Out"

Joseph points out that the keys to wood deck maintenance are protecting the deck from the elements and keeping it looking fresh and clean. "It’s true that some woods are better equipped to battle the elements than others, but the fact remains that all wood surfaces need a little TLC." she says.

But therein lies much of the mystery of wood deck maintenance: how much care, how tender should it be, and does anyone really love doing it? Like any home improvement project, caring for one’s deck does not have to be time-consuming, nor strenuous. Many view fixing up an old deck an enjoyable and satisfying experience; and the payoff is preserving an eye-pleasing, heavily-used addition of the house. Joseph offers a simplified time-frame for homeowners that addresses whether your goal is esthetics, protection, or a combination of both.

  • Clear sealers and preservatives are colorless and are normally applied once a year. But while a sealer protects the outer surface from warping and cracking, it doesn’t penetrate into the wood to prevent rot and decay like a preservative.
  • Toners provide slight color to the surface, but they also protect the outer surface from warping and spitting, as well as offering some UV protection. Toners should be applied every 1-2 years.
  • Semi-transparent stains impart color, but the texture and natural grain of the wood continue to show through. With solid color stains (great for older, aged wood), the texture shows through, but not the grain.
  • All stains penetrate the wood and protect it from natural elements. They also pride UV protection. Stains should last 2-3 years before having to be re-applied.
  • Finally, with toners and semi-transparent stains, colors may vary depending on the type of wood, the condition of the surface and how old it is. Consumers should always brush out a sample to ensure that the color is to their liking.

Joseph points out that the length of time a toner, stain or sealer will last before having to be re-applied is contingent upon foot traffic, climate conditions and other factors that would subject a deck to excessive wear and tear.

Cuprinol’s Deck Care Center

Sensing consumers’ uneasiness and uncertainty over maintaining and preserving wood decks, Cuprinol, one of the leading manufacturers of wood stains and preservatives, has put together a program that simplifies the entire process.

Launching the industry’s first "Deck Care Center", Cuprinol’s consumer-friendly display, located at major retail outlets, guides homeowners through an easy-to-follow, product selection for deck maintenance, while also offering how-to information. Similar information is available on the company’s website at

"When you’re able to cut through the clutter, and are given the proper information, wood deck maintenance is not as confusing or laborious as one would have you believe," says Joseph. Besides, she adds, no place made specifically for relaxation and contemplation should ever have any built-in headaches.

For more information on caring for your exterior wood deck, or for treating any wood surfaces, visit the Cuprinol website at

Courtesy: Home Improvement News and Information Center

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