7 Hardwood Decking Maintenance Tips
A hardwood deck is an investment that improves the value of your home and provides a space to spend valuable time with friends and family. If you’ve recently installed a deck using Ipe, Garapa, Cumaru, or any other gorgeous hardwood species, you might be wondering – how can I keep my deck looking this amazing for as long as possible?
Hardwood decking is known for being low-maintenance, but that doesn’t mean that it’s completely maintenance-free. These tips will help you get the most out of your hardwood deck so that you can enjoy it for years to come.
Advice for Ipe, Garapa, and Cumaru Decks
The following maintenance tips apply to any type of hardwood. Aside from appearance, the only major difference between Ipe, Garapa, and Cumaru is hardness. This difference will come into play when we talk about pressure washing, but other than that, these tips are hardwood-friendly across the board (pun intended).
1. Install Your Deck Properly
A crucial step to ensuring a long life for your hardwood deck is to have it properly installed. If it’s not installed properly from day one, you’ll have to deal with more time-consuming and costly maintenance tasks in the future.
There are many factors to consider during the installation process – one of the most important of these is wood acclimation. When hardwood enters a new environment, it needs time to acclimate to the new temperature and moisture content. This prevents the wood from shrinking or expanding drastically after it’s installed. The amount of time hardwood needs to acclimate depends on the type of wood and the environment that it’s in, but a period of 7 to 14 days is usually sufficient.
If you don’t have experience with deck installation, we recommend hiring a professional contractor to get the best performance out of your hardwood lumber.
2. Pre-finish Your Hardwood Lumber
Before you even install your new hardwood decking, it’s a good idea to have it finished. Like sunscreen, pre-finishing helps to block UV rays and slows the acclimation process. This helps the lumber to acclimate properly and consistently throughout, not just on the surface.
3. Refinish Periodically to Maintain Color
Only follow this tip if you’d like your hardwood deck to maintain its original color – if you’d rather let it fade to a silvery gray color, you can simply leave the wood alone. Unlike softwoods, hardwoods don’t necessarily have to be refinished to protect against moisture, insects, and rot. For the most part, it is an aesthetic choice.
If you do choose to refinish your deck, always use a high-quality oil-based product like Penofin Exterior Hardwood Formula. And if you apply an oil finish and change your mind later, you can always use a deck stripping product to remove the finish and let the deck weather naturally.
4. Clean Your Hardwood Decking Regularly
Cleaning your hardwood decking regularly is probably the most obvious tip, but it’s often the hardest to follow through on.
Leaves, dirt, pollen, and other debris can dirty the surface of your deck quickly, but the more diligent you are about keeping it clean, the longer it will last. Hardwoods are naturally resistant to mold and mildew, but they aren’t immune. Regularly removing moisture and organic debris is key to keeping your deck fungus-free year-round.
5. Give Your Deck a Deep Clean
In addition to staying on top of regular sweeping, it’s also a good idea to do a deep clean of your hardwood every now and then, especially if your deck is completely exposed. If you plan on refinishing the wood, you’ll definitely want to do this beforehand to ensure the best result.
To make a hardwood cleaning solution, combine one gallon of warm water with up to one quart of powdered oxygenated bleach. This is milder than liquid chlorinated bleach, but still strong enough to remove mold and mildew. Use a deck brush to scrub the surface, rinse thoroughly, and let dry completely before applying an oil finish.
6. Pressure Wash with Caution
There’s quite a bit of debate surrounding the topic of pressure washing. While we typically recommend the cleaning methods above over pressure washing, it may be necessary to remove tough stains. But if you’re not careful, you can end up removing a good chunk of your deck’s wood, too.
Here are some tips for safe and effective pressure washing:
- Choose a day when your deck is completely dry and humidity is low.
- Use the lowest PSI possible. Start at 500 PSI and only go up as necessary – most hardwoods can handle no more than 1,200 PSI.
- Use a fan spray tip with a spread between 40 and 60 degrees.
- Go with the grain, spraying with a back-and-forth sweeping motion about 1 foot away from the wood.
- Start from the house and work your way outward.
It’s also important to remember that different hardwoods can withstand different pressures – an Ipe deck will be able to handle a higher PSI than Garapa. If you’re unsure of what PSI your deck can handle, it may be best to have your deck pressure washed professionally.
7. Fix Any Loose Fasteners, Screws or Nails Right Away
As it’s exposed to heat and moisture over time, wooden decking expands and contracts, causing fasteners and screws to loosen. While this problem isn’t as common in dense hardwoods as it is in softwoods like pine and cedar, you should still be on the lookout for loose boards and fix them ASAP.
Not only do loose boards shorten the lifespan of your deck by allowing water to more easily penetrate the surface, but they also present a safety hazard. The sooner you fix them, the less likely you’ll be to trip over them.
Get the Most Out of Your Hardwood Decking
There’s one more thing you can do to get the most out of your hardwood decking – install it using premium-quality materials.
At Decks & Docks Lumber Co., we supply premium Brazilian hardwoods like Ipe, Garapa, and Cumaru to homeowners and contractors throughout the Southeast US. See the quality of our materials for yourself by requesting a free sample of Ipe or Garapa lumber, and get information about available board sizes, colors, and pricing by giving us a call. We look forward to working with you on your next project!