Your deck is a place for you to relax and enjoy some time outside, but if that deck is old, cracked and dry, you may find that you are so worried about how the deck looks that you can’t relax. Refinishing the deck can sometimes correct the problem; however, if the boards on the deck are dry-rotted and can’t support an average person’s weight, those boards are a safety hazard and should be replaced instead of just refinished.
One important part of making your old deck look better is cleaning it. Commercial deck cleaning products can help you do this. You can also use a mixture of one part bleach to three parts water, which is usually less expensive and cleans about the same as deck cleaners. Besides removing stains, most deck cleaners will remove mold and mildew. Be sure to test a small area of your deck, as some of these products may cause woods like cedar to become discolored. A stiff bristle brush is necessary to scrub the surface of the deck. Some home improvement stores have these brushes attached to a long handle, so you won’t have to worry about bending or stooping down too far.
Sanding the surface of the old deck provides a smooth surface to make walking on your deck comfortable and makes it easy to apply stain and sealer to the deck. For the best results you should use an industrial orbital sander with 80-grit sandpaper discs. To be cost effective, you can rent the sander, but you will still have to purchase the sandpaper discs. A deck that is cracked will likely still have some dips and cracks; getting them all out may not leave the deck thick enough to support weight. If you have a deck railing and balusters, you can use a hand-held belt sander to sand them.
Once your old wood deck is as smooth as possible, you can apply the stain of your choice. Be sure that you sweep the deck and wipe down railings. You need a clean, smooth surface so the stain will go on evenly and make your deck look its best. Test the color on an inconspicuous place on the deck to make sure you like it. You may need more than one coat of stain on an old deck to get the look you want. If this is the case, allow plenty of drying time between coats to prevent bubbling and peeling.
A sealer applied to your deck after it is stained helps to keep water from soaking into the wood. Water repellent sealers help to keep the wood stable, which means it isn't likely to warp or crack more. It is important that the sealer you apply states that it is water repellent. These products also impede the growth of organisms that can degrade and discolor the deck planks.
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