Depending on where you live in the country, it might be time right now to plan for treating your patio deck after a long winter. It's time to stock up on strippers, cleaning solutions, stains, and protective coatings.
Cleaning and prepping the surface is a job unto itself. You might slate the deck job at the top of your spring priority list. Remember: if you're cleaning and re-staining, give yourself a week of good weather to complete the job. Home Depot suggests to put off painting if rain is coming within 24 hours.
Many homeowners prefer cleaning up the surface of their decks and rails with a pressure washer, which can save time and elbow grease. However, it's not a solution for everyone. If your deck is in disrepair or discolored by deep stains, you can end up carving a groove into the wood or weaken the wood fibers with a strong continuous spray.
Getting Out Deck Stains
Better Homes and Gardens recommends using a stiff-bristle outdoor broom and trisodium phosphate (TSP) to scrub the deck, reserving chemical strippers for use on surfaces that really hold the old stain. If you're trying to keep to "green" cleaning agents, oxygen bleach mixed with water is a strong, safe solution. But you still need to scrub the wood and rinse it off with a garden hose.
Reliable Remodeler recommends that you protect your plants and lawn area around the deck when using any cleaning, stripping, or staining solutions. Wash plants down thoroughly before--and after--using any chemicals on the wood.
Repairing Damaged Wood
If you find minor damage or a few warped boards, now is the perfect time to patch or replace them. Sometimes you find a board that is so discolored, it's easier to knock it out and install a new one rather than try to clean it and prep for painting. It's also time to search for nail heads or shards of wood that can cause injury.
When the deck is thoroughly cleaned and prepped, you can apply your stain by brush, roller, or spray. Don't expect to get more than a few summers out of tinted or clear stains. The makers of semitransparent and solid stains say their products can offer protection up to four years. Of course, factors vary by your climate, the amount of routine wear and tear on the deck during seasonable weather, and the quality of wood and initial stains that went into the deck.