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For best results put your deck cleaner under a microscope
Its deck cleaning time. Time to rush out to your local hardware store or home center and pick up the deck cleaner of your choice. All things being equal, many people make their buying decision based solely upon price. After all, a deck cleaner is a deck cleaner is a deck cleaner and youve got more important things on which to spend your hard-earned money.
Unfortunately all deck cleaners are not created equal. The cheaper deck cleaner/brighteners usually include some form of chlorine (household) bleach as their brightening agent. Quite often the ingredient list does not say bleach, it uses the chemical term, sodium hypochlorite. Using a product with this ingredient on your deck can be a problem.
Years ago, I used to recommend cleaning and brightening decks with a solution of TSP and household bleach in water. I stopped doing this when I learned how hard the bleach was on the wood. The bleach took away the gray and killed the mold spores, but at the same time it mangled the wood fibers and left a residue which keeps stains and sealers from penetrating the wood properly.
I first learned of this phenomenon when the owners of Bio-Wash Products, showed me photographs of microscopic blowups of cedar decking taken by an independent Canadian chemical testing company. The magnification was 43X.
The first slide was of weathered cedar. You could see how a combination of dirt, mold and dead wood cells had turned the surface black/gray. This jumbled, blackened surface was not only unattractive, the cell structure was so clogged that not even penetrating stains could be absorbed by the wood properly.
The second slide showed how a bleach based cleaner lightened the wood but destroyed the lignin, the natural glue that bonds wood fibers together. When the wood fibers were no longer bonded, they became a loose mass to which stains and sealers could not adhere properly.
This is the reason why so many hard-working homeowners only get a single season out of their deck stains and sealers. They do all the work, but the cheap cleaner/brightener used makes it impossible for the stain or sealer to stick. The stain walks or weathers off in just a few months.
The final slide showed weathered cedar brightened with Bio-Wash WoodWash restorer. The citric acid used in the cleaner gets rid of the dead wood fibers but does not effect the natural bonding agent in the wood.
This is not a commercial for Bio-Wash WoodWash, (800) 858-5011. It is very good, but it is only one of many different cleaner/brighteners that do a great job. Others are Behr Wood Cleaner Brightener/Conditioner, (800) 854-0133; Cabot Stains Problem Solver Wood Brightener, (800) 877-8246; Flood Dekswood/Natural Wood Brightener (800) 321-3444; Penofin Weather Blaster, (800) 736-6346 and Wolman Fence & Deck Brighteners, (800) 556-7737.
Their only problem with these excellent products is that they cost a little more than the cut rate stuff. But you know what? You work too hard. You and your deck are worth the good stuff. So use the very best, get a great looking deck, then brag about it.
Even when maintained correctly, wood decks are stacked against you
It's D Day for decks If you have a wood deck, constant maintenance comes with the territory. A good stain or sealing job lasts 18 months. To assure maximum life of the coating, you should clean the deck every 90 days during the deck season.
Major manufacturers have come out with heavy-duty deck sealers. Some of them are:
* Penofin Ultra Red Label by Performance Coating.
* Natural Deck Oil by Bio-Wash.
* Olympic Maximum Waterproofing Sealant by PPG Industries, (800) 441-9695.
* Wolman Non-Graying, Long-Lasting Acrylic Wood Finish by Wolman Products.
* Behr Deck Plus by Behr.
These coatings are as close to armor plate as you are going to get from a stain or sealer. They have greatly increased solids for maximum Ultra Violet protection and superior performance. Still, most manufacturers only claim they will protect your deck for two or three years.
Consumers want deck stains to last as long as house paint. Do a good job painting the exterior of a house and the surface will look good for seven, 10, maybe even 15 or 20 years. This longevity is not only due to product quality. It's also due to the fact that walls are vertical surfaces protected by roofs.
A vertical surface means that rain and snow drain off, leaving the wall dry, and the roof protects the surface from the elements.
Since a deck is a horizontal surface, it is at the mercy of the elements. Rain and snow soak the surface. People walk over it. Birds well you know what bird do on it. Homeowners dont clean it properly.
On top of everything, most decks are usually not properly stained or sealed. When deck stain is tracked into a house, it usually means that an exterior stain, not a deck stain, was used, or that the stain was applied improperly. For instance, the instructions for Olympic Maximum say that all previous stains or seals must have been completely removed from the wood, and that the deck should be clean, dry and sanded smooth.
Decks usually do not have to be power washed. If you decided to restain your dining room table, you would not dump it in the back yard and tear off the old surface with a power washer. The biggest difference between your deck and your dining room table is that deck wood is usually softer and more delicate.
Behr, Bio-Wash, Penofin, Olympic, and Wolman have developed stripping and deck wood preparation systems designed to work perfectly with their premium deck sealers. For optimum results, use the company's entire system.
If you decide that you just dont want to do this any more, look into a vinyl deck resurfacing product like Durable Deck by Anchor Decking Systems, (888) 898-4990. Durable Deck strips can be fastened directly over an existing deck surface eliminating staining and sealing.
The product is distributed by Biewer Lumber in the Midwest, (800) 482-5717, and is found locally at Dillman & Upton, (248) 651-9411, and N.A. Mans, (734) 981-5800.
If the deck surface is in bad shape but the under structure is good, consider replacing the deck boards with composite materials such as TimberTech, (800) 307-7780, SmartDeck, (888) 7DECKING, Carefree Decking, (800) 653-2784, TREX, (800) 289-8739, or Fiberon Decking, (704) 463-7120, from Home Depot. These products dont look like wood but they never have to be stained or sealed.
So many people have deck questions that I put my entire deck book online so you can access all the information free here on my web site. If you are going to make a major change, better decide now, or you may not be able to find anyone good to work on your deck.