How to Seal and Protect Your Wood Deck

How to Safeguard Your Wood Deck From Mother Nature

People love wood decks because of their warm, natural and elegant look. They also love them because of that feel when they’re walked on. Wood decks, when taken care of properly, can also last for several decades, making the installation of such a long-term investment. But the key to a wood deck’s longevity and great look is proper care and upkeep – and when it comes to anything made of wood, let alone a deck, routine maintenance cannot be ignored.

One of the biggest enemies of wood, for instance, is water. That’s because water can lead to dry rot in wood, and dry rot can lead to premature deterioration of said materials (not to mention serve as an open invitation of sorts for an insect infestation that could cause even further damage). The sun can also take its toll on a wood deck over time. Despite these challenges, the good news is that keeping your wood deck looking great is fairly simple – you just need to know the right steps to perform and the right products to use to do it. This post is designed to help you learn how to protect deck materials from deterioration. Here’s a closer look at how to use a wood deck sealer to accomplish this as well as other tips to keeping your deck in good shape:

How to Seal Wood Deck Products

As we noted in the opening, in order to protect your wood deck from the harmful impact that water can have on it, properly sealing it is necessary. Therefore, if you notice areas of dry rot, mold growth and/or splintering, it may need a new seal job. But if your deck is brand new, don’t jump to seal it right away. Why? Because the wood has to adjust and weather first. Yes, while it may seem odd, it’s advised that you let new wood “settle” for about a year before you put a sealant coating of any kind on it. Doing so will allow the wood to fully dry out, thereby allowing its fibers to open up. This, in turn, will allow the wood to better absorb the sealant for a quality result. So instead of applying a sealant right away, opt for applying a new wood treatment product instead from the get-go. This will protect it from the rain and from the sun, while allowing it to adjust over that crucial first year. When you’re ready to apply sealant to new wood or ready to re-up your existing wood deck with an All-Purpose Clear Sealer or deck sealant, here’s a look at the process:

  1. Prep the deck (Part 1):

    Under no circumstances should you be applying a sealant coating with leaves, chipped paint and debris on the surface of the deck. Hence, you must properly clean and prepare the deck first. Start with an initial sweep to remove debris, then use either a push broom or long-handled brush and a cleaning solution to do the rest of the job. You can also use a power washer to help clean the deck, just be sure not to hold it too close to the wood itself in order to avoid potential damage.

  2. Prep the deck (Part 2):

    Now that you’ve done the initial cleaning, take some time to remove any paint or old sealant (if necessary). In the event that you’re re-sealing a deck, you may even decide to sand down the wood in certain spots of ruggedness to permit a smoother end result.

  3. Apply the sealant or deck sealer:

    Now that the deck is cleaned, it’s time to apply the sealant. When you do this, the deck should be completely dry in order for the sealant product to be absorbed properly by the wood. There are two main types of sealant – clear sealant and pigmented sealant. The big benefit of using a clear sealant is that it won’t alter the natural color of the wood it’s covering. However, clear sealants don’t provide ideal UV protection, so they have to be reapplied more often, usually about once every 12 to 18 months. Pigmented sealants do a better job of protecting against both moisture and the sun’s rays, and only have to be reapplied about once every three years. However, it’s important to find a good match with the pigmented sealer because it will alter the color of the wood upon application. Typically, a pigmented sealer doesn’t stand up to foot traffic as well and must be applied carefully, as uneven application will be noticeable. You can also combine a pigmented sealer with a clear sealer for a “best of both worlds” type of end result that maximizes protection.

  4. Protect it:

    Just because sealant is now applied doesn’t mean that your deck can’t still incur damage. We strongly recommend regularly sweeping and cleaning your deck off, especially if you live in a wooded area. Additionally, regularly inspect your deck to make sure that dirt and debris aren’t settling in between the boards of the deck. These areas tend to retain moisture and can often cause mold and mildew growth. Try to care for your wood deck the same way that you’d care for the flooring on the interior of your home – clean it regularly and perform more intensive maintenance when necessary or at least once a year.

  5. Perform a thorough inspection annually or more frequently if you live in an area with inclement weather.

It’s estimated that about 3 million decks are built in the United States each year because of poor maintenance. Knowing how to seal and protect your deck from the elements of Mother Nature can not only keep your deck looking great for longer, but save you money on extensive repair and/or premature replacement.