Good material key to long-lasting decks
Decks made from composite materials continue to increase in popularity. (Photo courtesy of Trex)
Sam Desmond, owner
Pinellas Remodel, Additions & Decks
Sam Desmond has worked under the name Desmond Construction since 2004, but recently changed the company name to more accurately describe his projects. He’s worked as a draftsman, home designer, construction estimator and in a lumber yard. Now he applies all this experience to designing and remodeling homes.
How can I ensure a long-lasting deck?
A long-lasting deck should be made from quality pressure-treated deck boards or vinyl composite boards. With wood boards, the thicker the better. You want wood with fewer knots. There's specialized deck boards with rounded edges and grooves cut into the bottom so they're less likely to warp.
Wood is cheaper than composite, but in the long run you'll save money with composite. Composite boards are usually made from recycled material and will last forever. You don't need to do any maintenance except to hose it down every so often. It doesn't get beaten up by the weather or from use. It's particularly good near pools, where kids might be playing and you don't want splinters from the deck. A composite deck will still look brand-new years later.
What should I do about sealing my deck?
A few weeks after installing a new wood deck, you should have it sealed with a UV inhibitor. That'll extend the life of the deck. The sealant wears off, so you'll probably have to do it every three or four years. When water's not beading up on the deck anymore, that means it's time for a new sealant.
As the deck gets older, five years or so, you might want to power wash it and put a semi-transparent stain on it. After eight years, you might have to paint it with an opaque stain. That stain needs to fill in all the cracks, and wood decks get beaten by the weather, sun and irregularities.
Besides staining and sealing, are the other ways to help my deck last longer?
You can avoid some problems upfront by how the deck is constructed. A wood deck should be screwed and glued, not nailed together. You have to use the appropriate spacing for the deck and the size of wood you're using. If you're near salt water, you want to use stainless steel screws, because saltwater can corrode the metal hangers.
In between professional maintenance, people should scrub down or power wash their deck every month or so. I ask people, "How often do you clean your kitchen floor?" Then I ask them, "How often do you clean your deck?" You should treat the deck as a living space, especially if you spend a lot of time there.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on May 14, 2010.