There’s nothing spookier than an unsafe deck. With winter quickly approaching, your outdoor decks can quickly create horrifying problems and scary safety hazards for you and your family, if not properly addressed beforehand. If you have a wooden deck, your decking will require more annual deck maintenance, compared to maintenance-free decking materials, to ensure it can survive the brutal winter season.
By avoiding proper deck maintenance and deck repair, you may invite one of these four spine-chilling decking disasters:
Wood that shows signs of cracking, severe splintering, or rotting needs to be addressed immediately. When winter hits, there’ll be no shortage of snow and ice. When that moisture hits wood that’s already showing damage, the water will seep into the wood, and it will expand and contract as it freezes and thaws with winter’s drastic varying temperatures. This causes the wood to swell, warp, and soften even more, creating a weak spot in your decking. When wood is weakened, it can’t support the weight it was initially meant to support and poses as a safety hazard.
To prevent this, perform an annual deck inspection, looking for signs of cracking, rotting, or decaying decking material. If you notice any spooky signs, immediately address them by replacing the material(s).
Maybe you’ve noticed a wobbly railing or two and decided to wait until next spring to fix it. While you may not be using your outdoor deck as often in the winter, insufficient railings still pose as a huge safety concern and will only worsen when exposed to winter weather. Railings provide necessary support and protection around the perimeter of your decking. If the railings are unstable, they’ll give way if someone should fall, causing potential serious injuries. Rusting or missing railing hardware and materials will only get exponentially worse when exposed to the chilly snow and ice.
Avoid ghostly railing mishaps by replacing all questionable hardware (e.g. rusting, missing, bent, etc.) and missing spindles. Tighten any connectors, and ensure the railing doesn’t budge when you give it a good shake.
Annual treatments for wood decking give it a necessary barrier to the elements and prolong its lifespan. Without this sealant, wood’s exposed to moisture and sun damage. As moisture penetrates wood, it causes it to soften, rot, and warp, while excessive sun exposure can dry out, splinter, and crack wood decking. Winter’s brutal temperatures harm the wood, as its retained moisture freezes and creates more damage to its integrity. Even if you have pressure-treated wood as a decking material, annual treatments are required because it loses its water resistance over time. Rotting and decaying woods present huge safety hazards, leading to weakened deck spots, as discussed above, or even complete deck collapse.
To check the weatherproofing of your deck, perform a water bead test. Drip some water on various parts of your outdoor deck. If it beads up, your sealant is still protecting your decking; if it soaks into the wood, it’s time to prevent your deck from any gruesome deterioration by preserving your deck with a waterproofing treatment.
When your deck was initially installed, it was designed to support a certain amount of weight. As a deck is exposed to winter, it’s possible that the changes in temperatures and exposure to freezing weather could eventually encourage the ground to shift or the support beams and posts to loosen. If these support concerns are not immediately addressed, the accumulation of snow and ice could be too heavy for decking that isn’t properly able to hold the weight. This excess weight on a weakened deck could encourage a deck collapse, which is incredibly dangerous. This problem is a concern for all decks, regardless of decking material. If you have a maintenance-free decking material, you likely won’t have to worry about tedious annual treatments (i.e. sanding, staining, etc.), but all decks can experience structural shifts.
It’s important to perform an annual deck inspection or have a professional deck builder do an inspection for you, so you can check the structural integrity of the deck and identify potential support concerns before they cause terrifying unrepairable damage. By confirming the deck ledger is properly adhered to your house, tightening any loose connections, and fixing cracks in support footers, you avoid further damage and realign your outdoor deck to properly distribute the weight it was designed to hold. It’s also a good idea to frequently remove snow with a push broom or plastic shovel as it accumulates over the winter to prevent excessive weight and damaging ice from building up.
Deck maintenance may have you feeling all the tricks without the treats. However, taking the time to inspect your decking to ensure it’s in good condition to weather whatever Mother Nature throws its way this winter can prevent even further damage, and that’s treat enough for us!