During the warm summer months, everyone loves relaxing and grilling out on the deck, but as temperatures begin to drop, the quality of your deck can be drastically damaged if you don’t take preventative measures beforehand. In fact, a majority of wood deck damage occurs between the months of November and February, when temperatures dip below freezing.

How exactly do cold temperatures affect your deck?

It turns out that there are some serious scientific explanations behind these structural changes. For instance, wood is commonly referred to as a hygroscopic material, meaning that it expands in warm temperatures and contracts in cold temperatures. Wood can actually shrink as much as 5% when outdoor moisture content is extremely low and there is little humidity in the air (like during frigid winter months). That five percent size decrease may not sound like much, but a few millimeters of contraction can lead to serious concerns in the health of your deck.

At the same time, erosion from sleet, snow, and ice can gradually wear away at paint and other finishes on your deck. Large deposits of snow and ice can also put unnecessary weight strain on the deck’s wooden supports. Especially as moisture enters the cracks and fissures of a piece of wood and then freezes, that ice begins to expand, splintering and weakening the wood from the inside out. After a particularly harsh winter, it is not uncommon to notice excessive cracking, general wear & tear, or even serious structural problems in your deck.

Ways You Can Prevent Deck Damage

As a homeowner, there are steps you can take to make sure that your favorite outdoor area will last through the winter and you can have years of backyard enjoyment. The following instructions are designed to help homeowners just like you get the most out of your deck.

  • Clean Your Deck in Autumn

Before the winter months begin kicking in, homeowners should perform a thorough deck cleaning to ensure that mold, mildew, and other deposits like wet leaves and dirt are lifted from the deck’s surface. These deposits can lead to excess moisture exposure and discoloration over the winter if they are not removed. We recommend using a pressure washer to get rid of dirt and mildew from inside the cracks of the wood. Before turning on the pressure washer, you should apply a thin layer of deck cleaner that will penetrate beyond the surface of the wood. Steadily wash the entire surface area of your deck and let dry before proceeding with another step.

  • Perform a General Check-Up

Once you have a clean deck, you should look for any blatant problems that might be associated with the deck. For example, protruding nail heads or screws should be put back into place. Any boards that have large holes or cracks should be replaced before the winter as well. 

  • Sand Your Deck

While sanding your deck is certainly a more time-consuming job, this only needs to be performed once every few years and it does wonders in improving the performance of coatings that you’ll apply later. Sanding the deck reinvigorates the pores of the wood, causing them to open up and bind more easily to coatings. This step also removes an entire layer of surface decay that will reveal a new fresh layer of wood that can be treated. You can rent a large sander at most local hardware stores. 

  • Apply an Adhesive Primer 

Prepping the wood is just as important as actually applying the final coating. An adhesive primer like PreTreat is the first product that you should apply to the deck. This primer will help bind the coating to the wood, much like when you apply paint primer to an interior wall. PreTreat is specially formulated to serve as an intermediate finish, creating the essential link that bonds the cellulose particles of the wood to the coating we apply in the next step.

  • Apply a Deck Coating 

IMG_2354-224x300Once the primer is dry, we can begin applying the most important winter precaution: the deck coating. This final coating will minimize and lock out any moisture that tries to get inside the wood. Our original and most popular product, Encore, is the most highly rated deck coating available because its moisture-activated formula actively seals holes and cracks in the wood. This coating will create a hard outer surface that will prevent snow, ice, and rain from entering the wood. It also insulates the wood from extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations, reducing the contraction and swelling of wood. After you apply this coating, your deck should be prepared for anything that winter throws at you.

  • Use a Deck Resurfacer in the Spring  

After the winter months have taken their toll, some homeowners want to transition to the summer by resurfacing the deck. A product like Refresh will lock down splinters, fill in any cracks from the winter, and help your deck stay cooler as the summer approaches. This step isn’t usually necessary if you applied a thorough coating prior to the winter, but if you step outside in the spring and notice that your deck look severely weathered, then a resurfacing agent is a perfect solution.

Caring for your deck is a simple investment that promotes long-term use. In fact, all Encore products are certified for a lifetime residential warranty and 10-year commercial warranty, so just a few hours of winter preparation can extend the life of your deck by years.

As winter approaches, call Encore Coatings today at (888)-776-2242 to learn more about how you can protect your deck!