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Wood decks should be cleaned roughly once a year. Composite and PVC decks may need less frequent cleaning depending on your geographic location.
Choose an overcast day so the cleaning solution you use doesn't dry out before rinsing. Remove any objects on the deck, and start by sweeping thoroughly.
If your deck is wood: scrub with a simple soapy water solution or a deck cleaner, if there are stains on the deck, add a small amount of bleach to the cleaning solution and let the solution stand for a few minutes before scrubbing and rising, allow the deck to dry thoroughly before replacing chairs, planters, etc.
If your deck is vinyl/PVC, follow the same procedure as wood decks with one exception…if the deck is stained: first try cleaning the stain with detergent or white vinegar, if that doesn't work, a power washer may be able to get the stain out, check with the manufacturer.
If your deck is composite: use a cleaning solution made specifically for your deck's surface, scrub away any stains with detergents (or use a degreasing agent if necessary), allow the deck to dry before replacing chairs, etc.
A note on power washing: vinyl decks are good candidates for power washing since the pressure won't usually harm the vinyl. Wood decks may also be power washed, but power washing can strip away sealants and stains, and even damage wood planks if used with too much pressure, so don't overdo it. Composite decks should not be power washed except at very low pressure, because power washing can permanently harm composite surfaces. If you have any doubts, check with your manufacturer before using a pressure washer.
"How often should I refinish my wood deck?"
The answer depends on your climate, exposure to sunlight, and how well you keep the deck maintained.
The main reasons to refinish a deck are appearance and damage prevention. You can decide for yourself how you want you deck to look. As for damage prevention, you should refinish your deck when (or before) you notice any signs of: discoloration, fading, weathering, splinters, splits, warping, sagging.
Regular refinishing of your deck keeps it looking great, extends the life of the deck, and protects your investment.
"What are all of the steps for refinishing a deck?"
The basic steps for refinishing a wood deck include: cleaning, stripping (and removal of the stripper), sanding, staining (if desired), sealing/waterproofing.
The amount of effort that goes into each step will depend on the condition of the deck and your personal preferences regarding the deck's appearance.
It's also wise – prior to refinishing – to check the steps, rails, foundation, connections to other structures, and overall condition of the decking so that any repair work can be done prior to refinishing.
"If I want a professional to refinish my deck, who does that kind of work?"
The choices are wide, and can vary be area. The most common options are: deck maintenance and refinishing companies, some deck installers who also do refinishing as an add-on service, some smaller general contractors, local handyman services with experience in deck and wood refinishing.
Given the wide range of providers who are capable of performing this service, it's important to make sure that the provider you choose has substantial experience in deck refinishing, and can provide references.
Use the form on this page to find qualified deck refinishers near you!
"Do I even need a deck stain?"
The two main reasons to use a stain are: aesthetics, UV protection.
Staining provides a level of UV protection that most plain sealers do not. That's important because the sun's UV rays fade wood to gray, and also cause cracking and splitting over time (so, staining serves the dual purpose of coloration and protection).
However, some homeowners prefer a natural, weathered look, and so choose to seal their decks without staining. Those who seal without staining should be mindful of the need to re-seal the deck every few years, which helps prolong the life of the deck by preventing cracking and splitting.