Outdoor spaces are nice, but it seems to me that they require more maintenance that I prefer. Perhaps it's because I don't expect outdoor areas to need much maintenance. Our house has a wood deck off the kitchen. We also have a concrete patio off the basement family room, but that story will be for another post :-)
When we bought the house, our realtor mentioned that our deck needed some attention. While the deck only four years old, it was very gray, and didn't appear to have any sealant remaining on it. In our first year, we did the minimum of cleaning off the leaf debris and trimming back trees to reduce future leaves on the deck.
After one year of residence, we proceeded with major maintenance - deck cleaner, pressure wash and sealant. After getting a couple estimates (around $500), we decided to make it a do-it-yourself project. We bought Olympic Deck Cleaner, borrowed a friend's pressure washer, and used semi-transparent stain, which was supposed to last of for 7 years. We learned that we probably didn't need deck cleaner and used slightly too high of pressure. We also soon learned that 7 years would really be about 2-3 years.
After three more years, the estimates for cleaning and staining our deck were now $1000 to $1300. At that price, it was another DIY project. However, this time, we got a little more expert advice. While our house was being painted, we asked the carpenter to replace a couple of boards that had become scaly. Instead, he recommend sanding and using a filler. We were very pleased with the result the board was renewed at a much lower cost. He also recommend filling in some knot holes, since those areas collected water and caused wood rot.
While his procedures and recommendations made sense, I had not considered sanding rough spots or using filler. Checking a couple of web sites, I found that both How Stuff Works and Bob Villa.com had detailed instructions and recommended using a bleach solution and pressure washing to clean the deck. Bob Villa recommended sanding the rough boards and How Stuff Works recommended filling the holes.
We decided to go with a bleach solution (which basically has the same active as commercial deck cleaners), pressure washing, belt sanding of rough spots, Elmer's epoxy wood filler (because it's water proof), and Olympic Maximum semi transparent stain with a 5 year guarantee. As with any painting or staining project, the cleaning and preparation will be over 50% of the effort.
Overall, we are happy with the results so far. We have done a bit more repair work than was included in our estimates. So we have saved at least $1000. We would only make one change to our procedure three years from now. While I followed the Bob Villa recommendation and hammered in protruding nails, I think will use the How Stuff Works method in the future and replace protruding nails with coated screws.
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Photo Credit: morgueFile.com, Stuart Whitmore