Wooden decking offers an invaluable space for outdoor living and entertaining. Properly cared for, it will stand up to the challenges of the changing seasons, and provide a safe and attractive level surface for dining al fresco, entertaining friends, or playing outdoors. However, the natural charm and resistance of the timber surface can deteriorate over the years following its installation; the sun steals its colour and shine, wet weather and mould create slippery surfaces, and wear and tear gradually takes its toll.
To prolong the lifespan of your wooden decking, it’s therefore essential to add a fresh coating to the surface every few years. If your timber deck is looking a little tired or feels slippery underfoot, read on for a DIY guide on how to prepare, treat and maintain your wooden decking.
What Do I Need?
Hard bristle brush
Hosepipe and water supply
Specialist wood reviver/cleaner
Natural bristle brush
Natural oil woodstain
Anti slip decking oil
Decking: Paint or Stain?
The first decision to make when you decide to add a fresh coating to your timber decking, is whether to paint or stain the surface. Both have their relative practical and aesthetic benefits. However when exposed to the elements over the years, paint has a tendency to flake and dull. Staining provides a more natural finish – if you invest in a quality decking treatment, it will also safeguard your wooden surface from deterioration.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on treating your decking with wood oil and stain solutions. A natural oil woodstain not only restores life to the appearance of your decking, it’s also weather resistant and breathable, improving the durability of your wooden surfaces. When combined with a top coat of anti slip decking oil, your decked area will be safer and more attractive than ever before.
Cleaning and Preparing Your Decking
Before you get to work with the woodstains and oils, it’s important to prepare the surface for its treatment, and thoroughly clean the decking. It goes without saying that you should choose a clear, dry day – it’s far easier and safer to clean a dry deck. Use a hard bristled brush to sweep away any excess dirt, leaves and mould from the surface. Pay attention to corner areas and cracks where these can accumulate, to remove as much as possible in this first stage.
Next, it’s time to wash the decking itself. Although it may be tempting to use a household cleaner to do this job, a specialist decking cleaner will be far more effective at removing dirt and biological substances (like mould and algae), and protecting the wood underneath. Chlorine solutions, for example, can have a deteriorating effect on wood. A wood reviver, on the other hand, is specifically designed to restore the surface’s natural finish, and is usually odour-free and biodegradable.
Apply the wood cleaner to the decking, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Remember to wear rubber boots or shoes with a good grip for this job, as the surface may become slippery. For newer decking, you may wish to dilute the solution a little to thin it out. However for older surfaces or decking in poor condition, you may choose to apply this directly. Scrub the surface area with your bristled brush as you go along, to target stubborn grime and dirt and get right into any nooks and crannies.
Once you’ve finished scrubbing the wood reviver onto the surface, use a hose or low-pressure washer to clean the deck. It’s important that you don’t choose something with a high pressure, as this could destroy the natural fibres within the wood, and reduce its lifespan. For this reason, a garden hose is more effective than a jet washer, but make sure that you’ve completely washed away the reviver before you finish. Then, leave the wood to fully dry out – this usually takes a day or two depending on the time of year.
Treating Your Decking
When working with decking stain and oils, two applications are recommended for best results. As oils absorb into the wood itself rather than forming a layer on top, you want to allow full abruption into your decking, to increase its resistance and improve its appearance. One thick layer of oil will be much harder to absorb than two evenly applied thin coats; for this reason, beware of ‘all in one’ treatments that claim to require only one application. This isn’t a job to be rushed.
A natural oil woodstain l is a good choice for the first coating, as this will add a burst of colour to your wood, whilst protecting it from water, weather, mould and algae, and UV radiation. Oil-based solutions like these are effective because fresh wood contains natural oils; essentially, you are restoring its original properties. Apply a thin but even coating using a natural bristle brush, working from the back of your decking to the exit. Don’t forget the sides and cracks, and ensure that the weather forecast is dry, to provide least 12 hours for the oil to fully absorb.
Ideally, wait a few days before moving on to the next coating, to ensure that the wood has soaked up the oils completely. As decking has a tendency to become slippery in wet weather, it’s advisable to choose an anti slip decking oil for the top coating. This will reinforce the first coating’s resistant properties, whilst including fine textured particles that allow for added grip underfoot. Again, apply evenly with a natural bristle brush, and ensure that the weather will permit a fast, smooth drying process.
Two layers are usually adequate for your treatment; if applied carefully with attention to detail, it should enhance the appearance and safety of your decking. Leave for at least 48 hours before using your decking, to ensure that is has fully dried.
Maintaining Your Timber Decking
It goes without saying that it’s far easier and less time-consuming to keep wooden decking clean and tidy, than it is to repaint it. To maintain your timber decking and increase the lifespan of the treatment, there are several things you can do.
Regular sweeping and cleaning will ensure that your decking stays safe and attractive. Especially during wet seasons such as autumn, rotting leaves and biodegradable substances can quickly lead to mould, algae and fungal attacks. So don’t just keep your decking in good condition during the summer months when you tend to spend more time outdoors. Specialist wood cleaner can help to stop these attacks in their tracks, especially when applied several times a year.
Meanwhile, keeping furniture, plant pots, and storage containers on your decking for long periods of time can encourage rotting, when moisture accumulates underneath these items. Wood needs to breathe, so these can cause suffocation. Therefore, when you’re not using your garden regularly, consider removing excess furniture and bulky items for winter storage. Any pots should be placed on a stand, to prevent moisture for collecting on the decking itself.
Although anti-slip paint can significantly improve the grip and resistance of your decked area, for additional safety benefits you may wish to install a handrail or balustrade at the side. Especially for steps or decking on a ledge, this can give you peace of mind that you and your family have an extra form of protection if surfaces do get slippery in wet weather.
When maintaining and treating decking, it’s important to use products that pertain to the natural properties of the wood. For this reason, choosing specialist cleaners, wood stains and oils to treat your decking will give you far more effective and long-lasting results than paints and household cleaners. Taking the time to tackle the project by stages will also ensure that the finished surface is attractive and safe for years to come.
Follow these steps when preparing, treating and maintain your timber decking, for a stunning decked area that will stand up to the elements come rain or shine.