Be ready for outside entertaining when summer weather arrives

Decks are a popular way to add living space to a home. Due to the harshness of our climate, maintenance is essential.

If you are installing a new deck, call your power company before you dig to check the location of underground wires, pipes, gasoline and electrical lines in your yard.

Setting planters and pots directly on the deck surface may cause staining. Place pots onto a 2X2-inch cedar board to create a space between the deck and planter.

Generally, when a deck is stained the protection will last two years. However, if the deck is exposed to excessive sun or mildew, it will need to be protected every year.

Contrary to popular belief, stain within a month of installation to protect against the elements and prevent premature warping and cracking of deck boards.

Three characteristics to look for when choosing a finish:

a) A good sealant will contain ultraviolet protection to reduce the damaging effects of the sun.

b) The finish should be waterproof, not just “water resistant.”

c) If mildew is a potential problem, the finish should contain a mildewcide (found in most wood preservatives).

To clean away mildew, use a garden sprayer and the following recipe: 3 quarts water, 1 quart bleach and 1 cup ammonia-free liquid dishwasher detergent. Leave for 15 minutes and rinse.

Tip 1: For tougher mildew stains apply the solution with a soft brush.

Tip 2: Liquid dishwasher detergent works better than regular dish soap because it will not foam.

If you love the natural look of wood and want to apply a clear waterproofing agent only, think twice. With no pigment in the stain, you will not get maximum protection because stain deflects sunrays.

Rule of thumb: The more pigment in the stain, the more protection the deck will get.

Be cautious if cleaning with a pressure washer. It can inadvertently damage the deck. There are many commercial deck cleaners on the market. Read and follow all instructions.

Note: Generally the stronger the cleaner, the less scrubbing needed.

By choosing not to maintain your deck it will not fall down or rot immediately. However, dirt, mould and algae can build up on untreated deck surfaces, making it slippery. Cleaning and sealing a deck will remove organic buildup and prevent splintering.

For grease stains use TSP (trisodium phosphate), washing soda or a commercial deck cleaner (powdered is normally more effective than liquid) i. e. M-83. If the wood has been treated, you may attempt to remove the stain. If unsealed, the wood will absorb the grease.

Alternatively, treat the grease stain using the following technique: On a hot, sunny day find a black piece of sheet metal. Make a thick paste of baking soda and rubbing alcohol. Apply this to the grease stain and cover with black sheet metal. Leave in direct sun for 90 minutes. Lift the metal and remove the dried paste; wash with vinegar and water. Rewash with detergent and water; rinse. If you find no difference, sand the area and restain.

Tip: To remove paint stains apply lacquer thinner. Do not use this product on synthetic lumbers.

When building a deck, use screws instead of nails. They hold better.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a great, low-maintenance decking material. The drawback — if the product is not properly installed the expansion and contraction of the plastic due to hot and cold temperatures may result in shifting over time.

If woodpeckers have taken a liking to your deck, display plastic owls or rubber snakes while the deck is not in use.

Candle wax on a sealed wooden deck can be removed using a putty knife and grease remover (test remover). Steam clean, heat with an iron or apply hot water and a little pressure.

Reena Nerbas is the author of the national bestsellers, Household Solutions 1 with Substitutions, Household Solutions 2 with Kitchen Secrets and Household Solutions 3 with Green Alternatives available online and in stores across Canada. She graduated as a home economist from the University of Manitoba and speaks professionally on the subject of fixing life’s messes by using products behind everyone’s cupboard doors. As well as being a columnist, Reena can be heard on radio and TV programs across Canada and the U. S. I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming! Check out my

website: www.householdsolutions.org.

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