An outdoor deck extends the living space of many homes. But the mix of sun, water and humidity can shorten a deck's life. Warped, cracked, faded or split wood are telltale damage signs, says Karen Cobb, a spokeswoman for Lowe's.
The following tips could save time and money:
• Seek sun protection. Look for water-repellent, mildew-resistant wood sealers and stains with ultraviolet (UV) ray protection. Wood turns gray without a sun-screen. Clear sealers without UV protection have to be recoated at least once a year. For greater protection and retention of color, select a semi-transparent stain that is oil-based, Lowe's recommends. It's a step saver.
• Avoid opaque, solid colors in high-traffic areas and horizontal surfaces, say the experts at Lowe's and Sherwin-Williams. Opaque stains (full color) wear out rapidly and are more likely to crack or peel in high-traffic areas. Use only solid colors on benches, railings and other low-traffic areas of your deck. Use semi-transparent or clear stains (with sun protection) for heavy foot traffic.
• Check the sealing. If water immediately beads up or remains in a puddle, the wood does not need to be resealed. But if your deck instantly absorbs water, it's time to reseal the wood.
• Simple repairs. You may be able to repair individual planks instead of redoing the entire deck. Lowe's recommends these steps:
1. Remove soft, damaged or splintered sections of the plank with a wood chisel.
2. Scrape off and sand down paint from the damaged and surrounding area. Apply acetone to the section.
3. Completely cover the damaged area with wood filler.
4. Sand, prime and paint.
• Design your own deck. If your deck is beyond repair, you can build a new one using online design programs. Cobb recommends the Lowe's Deck Designer program (http://www.lowes.com.decks/). The building planning kit is free, but you must register on the site to use the program. Home Depot has a $15 deck designing program that can be downloaded at http://www.homedepot.com/. This click-and-drag program offers more than 70 designs and instructions.
This is from my latest column in Home & Design Section of the Miami Herald.
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