Decking treatments – Which are best for maintaining & caring for decking
Decked areas can look amazing when well maintained, but if neglected or left to fall in to a state of disrepair, can soon start to look old, worn and tired.
Common decking issues
Common decking issues include the loss of colour where decking boards turn grey or silver over time. Moss, mould or algae that can make wooden decking slippery and dangerous. Or the unsightly appearance of old decking finishes that have started to crack, peel or flake off.
Which decking treatment do I need?
Deciding on which decking treatment to use can depend on the type and condition of the deck. Is it treated or untreated? Are the boards softwood or hardwood? new or old? All of these factors can have an impact on the type of decking treatment that could and should be used.
Types of decking treatment
There are 5 main types of garden decking treatment, all of which can be used to protect, preserve, maintain, restore and rejuvenate old and new, softwood and hardwood decking. These are…
- Decking Cleaners and Restorers
- Decking Preservers
- Coloured & Clear Decking Oils
- Decking Stains
- Decking Paints
The good news is that common decking problems can usually be rectified. With the right approach, decked areas can be restored in no time, to be enjoyed again and again, year after year.
Decking maintenance – Where to start?
Before starting any decking maintenance or restoration project it’s important to understand what needs doing. The condition of the deck, the desired look and the treatments required may vary. For example, a south facing deck that takes the full brunt of the summer sun may need a decking treatment that keeps the wood nourished and protected and contains UV filters. Wooden decking in a shaded location that is overshadowed by trees or bushes may require better protection from mould and algae due to falling leaves and damp conditions.
The first step is to determine if the boards are bare wood or if they have been previously treated with an oil, stain or other treatment?
If the decking boards look dry, grey or silver, chances are that it’s probably untreated or that any previous treatment has worn away or peeled off over time.
If decking has a coloured finish, that is showing signs of cracking, peeling or flaking, it has probably been treated with a decking stain. Decking stains tend to form a plastic or varnish like film on the surface of the deck. This said however, some brands of ‘decking stain’ are in fact coloured oil that penetrate in to and stain the timber.
If mould, algae or other signs of biological growth are present, it’s probable that the deck is either untreated or that any old decking treatment has worn away or become ineffective.
When planning to clean, restore or maintain a decked area, Spring, Summer or early Autumn are best when day and night time temperatures are typically above 10℃. If refinishing the deck with a deck oil, paint or stain, it is best to wait until dry conditions are forecast for at least a couple of days and nights.
Before treating decking, it’s always best to remove all traces of surface dirt, debris and other contaminates. Power washers are great for blasting off mould, algae and other biological matter. In the absence of a jet wash, a stiff broom and plenty of elbow grease is the next best thing. When cleaning decking, only use water or a dedicated decking cleaner. Using household detergent or bleach may cause problems when trying to apply a decking treatment after cleaning.
Old decking finishes that have started to crack, flake and peel can usually be removed with a jet or power washer. Failing this, a chemical or decking stripper may be required.
Once cleaned, especially with a power washer, decking timbers should be allowed to dry thoroughly for at least a couple of days in dry, warm conditions before applying any decking treatments. This time can vary depending on weather conditions such as temperature and humidity.
Why maintain garden decking?
Well maintained decking will look good and last for much longer, especially softwood decking. Using a dedicated decking cleaner will effectively remove surface dirt, grease and biological growth whilst being safe to use on decking finishes.
When wooden decking becomes slippery, especially when damp or wet, it’s usually down to mould, mildew, algae or some other form of biological growth on the surface of the deck. Jet washing will remove the surface matter but will leave mould spores in the surface of the deck timbers. Left untreated and in the right conditions, these will likely grow back quickly. To kill off mould spores and remove any black and green staining from the wood, the use of a fungicidal wash or mould and mildew remover is recommended.
Grey, silver and untreated decking
Wooden decking that has turning grey or silver over time can be treated to restore the colour of the timber. Grey and silvering of exterior timbers is caused by UV ray and water damage. Decking restorers that contain Oxalic Acid help to reverse this chemical reaction, therefore returning the colour of the timber.
Previously oiled decking
Decking that has been previously oiled should be fairly straight forward to restore. Clean thoroughly with a suitable decking cleaner then apply a decking oil. Oil-based decking treatments are available in a range of clear and coloured finishes. Oils with anti-slip properties are perfect for decking steps or decked areas at pubs and other commercial areas where safety is a key concern.
When installing new wooden garden decking, there are several steps that will help to keep it in tip top condition for longer. It’s worth spending a little more time from the outset to reduce potential problems in the future, saving time and money.
Where to buy decking
When buying new decking, soft or hardwood, it’s worth shopping around for the best decking deals. Buying decking online can work out cheaper than from many of the usual retail chains and has the added convenience of having the decking delivered to your home. End of season sales towards the end of the summer months is also a great time to bag a bargain as old decking stock is cleared.
Softwood decking care
Before installing softwood decking, we recommend that all decking boards and posts are first treated with a wood preservative, all sides including the sawn ends. Wood preservers offer protection against the most common wood related problems including mould, algae and insect attack. Applying 2 coats to all sides and soaking all sawn ends in a quality wood preservative will help to protect decking timbers from these threats.
Once the wood preservative has fully dried, usually 24 to 48 hours for most, even though they may feel touch dry in 8 hours or less, decking boards are ready for the main decking treatment, usually in the form of an oil, decking stain or decking paint.
As with decking preservers, it’s best to treat all sides of the boards and posts with 2 coats of oil, stain or paint before installation. This will again offer the best protection for decking and posts.
Hardwood decking care
Dense hardwood decking boards made from Ipe, Balau, Garapa and other exotic hardwoods are more resistant to wood rot and insect attack than softwood alternatives. This said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they shouldn’t be treated.
Because dense exotic hardwoods used for decking can be naturally oily, it can sometimes cause issues when applying a decking oil. New hardwood decking often needs to be left untreated for a couple of months after installation. This is to allow some of the natural wood oil to disperse and for weathering to open up the tight surface grain. This allows decking treatments to better penetrate into the surface of the boards than if applied immediately.
Surface coatings such as surface decking stains and paints may not adhere or bond well to the surface of hardwood decks if the wood still contains a high degree of oil. Some common brands of decking oil may also be too thick or viscous to effectively penetrate in to the tight grain of the decking timber, especially when new. There are however highly refined oils that are extra thin that are perfect for the job such as Osmo Decking Oil.
Decking Cleaners and Restorers
Decking cleaners and restorers are used as both a preparation and maintenance aid. A wood cleaner or restorer can be used to prepare a bare wood or freshly stripped decking prior to applying a fresh decking treatment. deck cleaning products are used to keep biological growth such as mould and algae under control and decking looking good for longer by preserving the finish.
Wood and Decking Preservatives
These speak for themselves. Wood preservers help to protect decking timbers from biological threats that would rot or degrade untreated wood. More information and decking preservative recommendations here.
By far the preferred choice, decking oils are quick and easy to apply and provide a good level of protection and durability. The main benefit of an oil over a decking stain or paint is that they will never crack, flake or peel. This means that you’ll never be faced with the difficult and potentially time consuming task of trying to remove an old finish.
When high traffic patches of decking start to look worn or tired, it’s simply a case of cleaning the area to remove any surface dirt or debris. Then re-apply a small amount of decking oil to the affected areas. Even when the whole decking area, needs a re-fresh, simply clean then re-apply a fresh coat of oil to restore it to its former glory.
Clear decking oils tend to enhance the natural colour and grain of the timber and give decking boards a slightly ‘damp’ appearance. A way of testing how bare wood decking will look once a clear oil has been applied is to wipe a section of the deck with a damp sponge or cloth.
Coloured decking oils come in a variety of colours and shades. Although most people tend to go for a wood type colour such as Dark Oak, other colours like grey, black, white, green and blue are also available. Coloured products tend to provide better UV protection as the colour pigment in the oil helps to block UV rays. More information and decking oil recommendations here.
Decking Stains generally provide a semi translucent, varnish like coating on the surface of the deck. This coating allows the grain of the timber to be seen while adding colour to the deck. Available in a wide range of colours, decking stains are tough, durable and seal the surface of the wood. More information and decking stain recommendations here.
Decking paints produce a solid opaque finish and can be used as a ‘quick fix’ solution to improve the appearance of old decking. Available in a range of attractive colours, products such as Decking Rescue Paint can provide a modern alternative to traditional decking treatments. Other exterior garden paints such as Cuprinol Garden Shades are perfect for garden sheds, wooden fences, garden furniture and other garden wood but are not durable enough for decking boards.