The Dos and Dont’s of Winter Maintenance for Wood Decks

Written by DS-Bahr on . Posted in Decks

Whether a contractor built your deck at the same time as your home or you created a custom deck during the last year, you must protect the space come winter. Without proper maintenance, the harsh Minnesotan winter could leave your deck faded, cracked, or even broken.

Luckily, you can take a few simple steps to ensure your deck stays beautiful and structurally sound in spite of any wind, snow, or sun the winter brings. Below, we outline some simple dos and don'ts to get you started.

DO Bring Your Plants Indoors

If you keep decorative planters or homegrown herbs on your deck, bring them inside your home or garage before the temperatures drop below freezing. This usually means you should move your plants in mid- to late-October.

Keeping your plants inside not only protects them from the cold, but it also decreases the amount of cleaning you must perform to prepare your deck for winter.

Even if you don't expect your plants to live through the cold weather, move the planters. Heavy, bulky objects can limit your cleaning and give moisture a place to collect on your deck surface.

DO Clean Your Deck Before It Snows

Once you clear away your seasonal deck trappings, do some serious cleaning. Ideally, you should have your deck thoroughly cleaned and resealed (if you plan to refinish it this year) before any winter precipitation comes.

Start with the following tasks:

Sweep away any debris, like leaves or dust.

Wash the deck surface with water and mild soap or a specialized cleaning solvent. Look for any weaknesses in your railings and make repairs.

Before you apply a water-repellant finish, sand the surface gently. Sanding removes discoloration and allows the sealant to better penetrate the wood. Then, seal the deck according to the finish's instructions.

DO Cover or Store Deck Furniture

When it comes to your deck furniture, you have two choices. Either cover each piece for the winter or store the furnishings elsewhere. Not only do these steps protect your furniture from the cold, but they also protect your deck from the furniture.

Metal furniture can become rusty in winter weather conditions and leave unattractive, difficult-to-remove stains on your deck. Wood furniture, on the other hand, may contract rot or harbor mold and mildew that can spread to your deck's materials. And all deck furniture can help moisture accumulate in a single position, increasing the possibility of serious wear and tear.

If you choose to leave your furniture out, check that it has no existing issues. Then, place each piece of furniture on a tarp and cover its surface. Otherwise, remove the furniture before you expect the year's first snowfall.

DO Maintain an Exit Path on the Deck

Even if you don't plan to clear your deck's entire surface once it begins to snow, you must create a pathway from your back door to the stairs. If you can, make sure the path appears near the railing for the majority of its length.

This path provides access to your backyard throughout the winter, but it also gives you and your family an alternative route out of the house in the case of an emergency.

DON'T Clear Snow with a Metal Shovel

While the wood of your deck can withstand a lot of weight and wear, it doesn't have much of a defense against sharp metal surfaces. If you use a metal snow shovel, you run the risk of scratching your deck or even removing the finish you painstakingly applied before the snow fell.

Instead, invest in a heavy-duty plastic snow shovel that can get the job done without damaging your deck.

DON'T Let Moisture Stand on the Deck

As you've probably guessed based on the previous tips, moisture represents your biggest winter concern. Snow that stays on top of your deck's finish won't cause much damage. But standing water, ice, or snowmelt that seeps into the wood can result in warped and discolored wood.

Watch for any excess moisture and remove it immediately.

DON'T Use Salt to Prevent Ice

If you've lived in Minnesota long, you know how important de-icing smooth surfaces is during the winter. You may even have a bag of rock salt waiting the garage for this purpose. But don't put any of that salt on your deck.

Salt's properties create pitting and drying on wood that can weaken your deck. Opt for a salt-free de-icing agent instead.

 

If you have questions about your yard or deck specifically, reach out to a decking expert. Talk to a materials supplier, decking contractor, or home improvement specialist about what other steps you can take this winter to keep your deck strong.

Begin performing the preliminary maintenance steps on this list now so that by the time the first snow falls, you and your deck will be prepared to outlast the long winter.

For more information on caring for your home's deck, roof, and exterior year round, read our other blog posts.

10 Accessories Every Deck Needs

Written by DS-Bahr on . Posted in Decks

You have just built or purchased a deck so you could host all kinds of gatherings on it. Maybe you have neighborhood barbecues in mind, or perhaps you want your deck to act as an outdoor tea parlor for your book club meetings. In any case, you've finished the hardest part of the process. Now you have to brainstorm ways to decorate and accessorize your deck.

Below, you'll find a list of both practical and fun accessories that every deck needs. With these items in your outdoor space, you'll wow guests no matter what kind of gathering you choose to host.

  1. LED Outdoor Lights

The party shouldn't stop as soon as the sun goes down. Additionally, if you like more intimate gatherings, the night tends to make people more open to sharing personal stories and making valuable memories. And your porch lights won't quite cut it.

So, use solar LED outdoor lights to illuminate your deck instead. These lights charge during the day with the sun's free, clean energy, and they store that power so they can brighten your deck for hours after dark. Adjust the number of lights as needed to create just the right atmosphere.

  1. Outdoor Speakers

You can't call your deck's ambiance complete until you add outdoor speakers. These speakers can withstand any kind of weather, and modern options give you exceptional sound quality. So if you need music for one of your parties or book club meetings, make sure you have outdoor speakers installed around your deck.

  1. Solar Panel Charging Docks

Mobile phones have become an essential just like wallets and keys. So don't make your visitors charge their devices inside when you have long gatherings. Rather, install furniture or docks with solar panels so your guests can power their devices outside. You won't just give your friends a convenient way to keep their phones from dying-you'll also include an accessory that'll impress anyone who sees it.

  1. Grills or Smokehouses

Of course, you can't have a deck or patio without a grill. Choose the size and features that best fit your needs. Then consider purchasing a smokehouse to complement it. These appliances function somewhat like ovens, so you'll have multiple ways to prepare meals for your barbecues and picnics.

  1. Fire Pits or Fireplaces

Perhaps you prefer to roast marshmallows instead of grill steak. Or perhaps you want to give your deck a focal point that inspires visitors to cuddle. Either way, you'll get exactly what you want with a fire pit or outdoor fire place. Build these features into your deck or keep them free standing as your style preferences dictate.

Fire pits tend to have wider diameters to allow for cooking, while fireplaces tend to have taller constructions to encourage flame height. Keep these differences in mind as you make your choice.

  1. Insect Zappers

Smoke can sometimes keep mosquitoes and wasps at bay, but why not opt for a more thorough and efficient option like an insect zapper? This device emits bright light that attracts insects to it. Once an insect touches the light, the zapper creates an electrical shock that kills the bug instantly. As a result, insects won't bother you or your guests, making for a more pleasant gathering.

Position one zapper near your deck's center, or install several for more comprehensive protection.

  1. Outdoor Furniture

You can't forget outdoor furniture when you accessorize your deck. Decide whether you prefer a dining table and chairs or a full outdoor living room set. You'll need the dining option if you plan to host a lot of barbecues or if you want to eat your breakfast outside every morning. But choose the living room set if you would rather host book clubs, tea parties, and other smaller gatherings.

  1. Rugs and Cushions

After you choose your furniture, choose outside-friendly pillows and rugs to complete the look. Rugs give visitors a safe place to put their bare feet, while pillows simply make your furniture more comfortable. Both accessories also add a pop of color to your outdoor entertaining area.

  1. Umbrellas

You don't want rain to ruin your parties. Nor do you want anyone to develop a sunburn. An umbrella solves both of those problems. Find one large enough that it shades all of your outdoor furniture. Make sure the umbrella matches your pillows and rugs as well.

  • Hanging Art and Other Decorative Touches

Finally, you can let your imagination run wild with decorative touches like hanging lanterns, fairy lights, ribbons and banners, potted plants, abstract art, and more. Just make sure you don't overcrowd your deck because visitors will think it looks tacky.

 

With the tips above, you can accessorize your deck in the best way possible. For more tips on beautifying and maintaining your home's exterior features, check out the rest of our blog.

How to Protect Your Deck from These 6 Common Pests

Written by DS-Bahr on . Posted in Decks

You recently installed a deck, and you look forward to the barbecues, parties, and lazy summer evenings you'll spend on it.

However, as you've added patio furniture and decor, you've noticed that your deck attracts more than just human occupants. Insects, rodents, and other pests seem to enjoy it too. And you worry that these pests may ruin your deck or make it dangerous or uncomfortable to use.

Don't surrender your deck to these creatures. Instead, identify the animal invader, call a pest control company for removal, and then fortify your deck against further infiltrations. We'll tell you more about this process below.

Identify the Pest

You'll often find these common pests living on, in, or under your deck.

1. Termites

These insects look like smaller, lighter ants, and they all have wings. When they eat through wood, they create tubes about a pencil's width across. They can cause significant structural damage because they will eat through all the materials in your deck. They can also tunnel through foam, plaster, and other materials to reach wood.

2. Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants look like smaller ants-but they grow much bigger. They come in red or black. Like termites, they also bore holes through wood. They don't eat the wood, but they do like to live in it, and they'll soon make your deck look like Swiss cheese. You'll also see small piles of sawdust and dead insects around your deck.

3. Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees don't cause as much damage as carpenter ants or termites, but they do bore holes in your wood or composite deck. The holes will appear about a half inch in diameter, and they'll look perfectly round. These bees bore into wood or wood-like materials to build their nests.

Even though carpenter bees don't cause as much damage as other pests, they do create a stinging hazard, so you should remove them.

4. Powderpost Beetles

You won't likely see these beetles until they fly around lights late at night. They appear reddish brown, with skinny, flat bodies that grow about a quarter inch long. They also leave sawdust behind, and they create pinhead-sized holes. These beetles will also undermine your deck's structural integrity.

5. Mice and Rats

Rodents like to live in or under decks as well. You'll know you have mice or rats because you'll see their small, grayish bodies darting and scurrying. They also leave small, black, pointed droppings behind. And because they have dirty fur, they create grease trails when they rub against your home's surfaces.

These rodents spell disaster for your deck because they chew on the materials and make them weaker. Mice and rats also carry diseases that could endanger your family.

6. Raccoons, Opossums, and Skunks

These larger rodents cause even bigger problems because they tear through deck materials more quickly. They also carry some of the same diseases that mice and rats do, and they will bite and scratch to defend themselves. So if you see cat-like creatures under your deck, call a pest control expert for assistance.

Fortify Your Deck

Now that you know what kind of pest has invaded your deck, you can take steps to remove it and ensure it never returns. Just make sure you don't eradicate the rodent or insect on your own. Ants and bees will attack if you try to spray them, and you may face legal penalties if you accidentally kill rodents like opossums. Leave the pest removal to a professional.

Once you've removed the pest, you can take the following steps to protect your deck:

If you have a wood deck, seal it with a new protective coat, and add a new layer of paint. A well-maintained deck attracts fewer pests than a poorly maintained one.

Trim all plants away from your deck so pests have nowhere to hide.

Remove any standing water around your deck. Your pests need water to survive, and if they can't access it, then they won't want to make a home under your deck.

Cover the gap between the deck and the ground with a mesh screen. This screen deters rodent pests. You can also seal the gap with concrete or plywood if you want a more thorough deterrent. Put yellow bug lights around the deck to keep insect and spider pests away.

Your pest control or deck expert may also have some more tips for you. For example, if you have raccoons, you should use zip ties to seal your garbage cans. If raccoons can't get to the food inside your garbage cans, they'll leave your yard in favor of a location with better access to food sources.

If pests have damaged your deck, get a deck expert to repair and restore it. If you have further questions about keeping your deck comfortable, safe, and pristine, check out the rest of our blog.

D.S. Bahr Construction, Inc.
612.722.1448
460 Hoover Street NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413