How to Make an Ice Melt For Your Wooden Deck
Wooden decks have become a popular addition to homes—they’re great spaces for sitting out with family and friends throughout the warmer months. But in winter and fall, the wooden decking may become damaged by ice and moisture.
With icy winter weather, steps become slippery, meaning that accessing your garden or outside area suddenly becomes very tricky. However, you can create an ice melt for wood deck systems to incorporate into your winter routine.
With an ice melt for wood decks you can melt the ice, protect your deck, and create a safer outdoor environment. Read on to learn more about ice melt and how to use it.
What Is Ice Melt?
Ice melt is a specially designed product that you can use on your wood decks to help to clear away dangerous winter freezing. It is usually composed of sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride, but it depends on the product.
Older methods to thaw out your dock include the use of rock salt and sand, much like how roads are defrosted. However, the abrasive nature of these materials can potentially damage the wood of your deck.
As a combination of safe and effective chemicals, ice melt is generally the best option for safely and efficiently thawing your deck.
When Should You Use Ice Melt?
Due to it being incredibly porous, wood expands and contracts with temperatures. Moisture fills the wood, and once temperatures drop, the moisture freezes and expands as ice. This puts tremendous stress on the wood of your deck. Over time, you may see cracking, buckling, and splintering. It’s worth investing in protecting the material of your deck. To work around this potential damage from moisture and freezing, different types of treated wood are popular building materials for outdoor structures. Pressure treated lumber, composite wood, and PVC decking are all popular alternatives.
If you are caring for a PVC or composite deck, exercise caution in using ice melt. Due to the chemical compounds frequently present in commercial ice melts, they have a chance to damage or stain the materials that make up these kinds of decks.
Your best bet to protect your deck through the winter is to keep it clean of snow. Avoid metal snow shovels, as they can easily gouge the planks, and run the shovel parallel to the direction the boards are laid. For lighter flurries, you can use a nylon-bristled brush to sweep the unmelted snow off your deck.
When maintaining a composite or PVC deck, refer to the manufacturer’s official maintenance guide for chemical compatibility and care.
How Do You Use It?
Using ice melt can be broken down into a simple three-step process. Follow these tips for the best results:
1. Clear Away Snow
If there is snow on your deck, you’ll want to clear it away so you can apply your ice melt directly to the boards. It’s best to run your plastic shovel parallel to the deck boards, so you don’t damage them.
2. Buy the Right Ice Melt for Your Deck
Although there are many different ice melt options for your wood, calcium chloride is a popular option because of its efficacy in clearing the decks without causing damage. The deicer isn’t physically abrasive, so it will not scratch the surface below.
3. Apply to Your Wood Decks
This part is as simple as spreading your chosen ice melt across your decking. The ice melt should do the rest! Now you can sit back and relax, enjoying a clear, safe deck.
Other Ways to Protect Your Decking During Winter
While we recommend ice melt, the best protection for your deck is prevention. When icy weather is in the forecast, it’s time to take necessary precautions to protect your deck.
1. Use a Tarp
Laying a tarp over your deck and affixing it to be flush with the wood is a great way to keep moisture off the planks. If secured properly and done with a thick enough tarp, this can be left down during the coldest part of winter, avoiding the issue of a frozen deck altogether.
2. Use a Stain
Staining or oiling your deck can help add a layer of protection. When the wood is lacquered, moisture is less likely to seep into the wood and immediately cause damage. This process should be completed in the warmer months so the stain has time to dry properly.
3. Give Your Decking a Good Clean
Before you pack up your decking for the colder months, it is a good idea to give it a good clean. If you leave debris on top of the decking, moisture is more likely to collect underneath it, damaging your wood. You’ll want to face frozen weather with a clean, dry deck.
Most ice melts only work correctly when the temperature is within a specific range. Most leading ice melts are still effective when used just below freezing temperatures. Because of this, make sure to check the back of the ice melt for instructions and check the weather forecast before deciding which ice melt for wood decks is best to use.
If you need new decking because of sustained water damage over the years, you can sometimes find home repair loans available in a pinch.
When you want to use ice melt for wood decks, make sure you are aware of the secondary effects of the product. For example, calcium chloride may irritate your skin if handled with bare hands, and the chlorine is likely to damage lawns and plants that it touches. Therefore, wear gloves when handling ice melt for wood decks and keep the ice melt contained to your wood decks.
It’s also important to pay attention to how chemical ice melt may interact with the materials in composite or PVC decking. If you are unable to keep your composite deck clean during the winter and want to turn to ice melts, make sure they are safe to use for your type of composite before applying to the deck.
Get Help with Your Deck
Whether you’ve come into caring for a deck or are looking to build one of your own, you’ll want to make sure it will last through many seasons to come. If you’re in need of any materials for building, repairing, or protecting your deck, contact our professional team at Decks & Docks today!
- About the Author
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James Hertler has served professional builders and homeowners on the Jersey Shore since 2006. With decades of industry experience, his team provides deep product knowledge and specialized service. Professional deck builders and marine contractors will find that they understand the business and work hard to make every job run smoothly. Homeowners working independently or with a contractor will find him a great resource from planning to delivery. All of their customers will find that James goes the extra mile to help turn a construction project into a beautiful outdoor living space.