Preparing & Protecting Your Deck for Winter

Winter is coming. Is your deck ready?

With the arrival of cooler weather in the fall, many homeowners begin preparing their landscaping for the cold winter months –  planting bulbs, mulching, trimming and general yard maintenance. Your deck should be on the list, too.

Cold weather deck preparation is equally important, especially if it’s made of natural wood or you’re in an area where winters are particularly harsh. It will prolong your deck’s lifespan and save you time, effort and money in the long run. It’ll also give you a head start on enjoying your deck in the spring and summer.

Steps to Protect & Prepare Your Deck for Winter

Now that we’ve established the importance of preparing and protecting your deck for winter, what does it entail, exactly? Let’s find out.

Remove Dirt, Leaves And Debris

It may not seem like a big deal, but over time, dirt, leaves, pine needles and other debris can build up on your deck and in between floor boards. In winter, this debris gives snow and ice a better opportunity to build up and lock in moisture, and moisture is not a good thing for your deck; it causes wood rot and other structural and integral damages. Make sure your deck is free of debris before winter sets in.

Clean Your Deck and Get Rid of Mildew

Other than looking unsightly, mildew can lead to severe deck damage, especially if left untreated throughout the winter. So, eliminate any mildew before it has a chance to cause damage. You can buy a commercial product to combat mildew or create your own simple solution from common household cleaners. One homemade formula calls for three quarts of water, one quart of oxygen bleach and ¼ cup of ammonia-free liquid dish detergent. Apply the mixture to your deck’s surface with a garden sprayer and let sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing. The bleach will kill the mildew and the dish detergent will remove it.

Inspect Your Deck

Before putting your deck on winter hiatus, it’s recommended that you perform a general inspection. Inspect the top surface as well as underneath to spot areas where moisture may have hidden and created weak spots. You should also look for any loose railings or footings and tighten up any hardware that could compromise your deck over the winter months.

Seal & Finish Your Deck

Of all the ways to properly protect and prepare your deck for winter, there’s one you should never fail to overlook –sealing and finishing. Sealing or staining your deck is one of those upkeep items that should be done at least every 2-3 years to protect your deck’s lumber from rain, snow and ice.

An unsealed deck is subject to moisture penetration, which causes warping, cracking, splintering and - more than likely - rot. And as we know, deck rot is not something you want. Deck rot can destroy the integrity and strength of your deck along with increasing the chances for pest infiltration.

Removing Snow & Ice from Your Deck Surface

Now that you’ve learned about preparing your deck for winter, what do you do during the actual cold season? Protecting a deck in winter is different than prepping it for winter. Is snow bad for a deck? Can you salt your deck? How do you shovel a deck? There are a lot of winter-specific questions that surround deck care.

Shoveling Snow

If you live in a region that gets a decent amount of snowfall, it’s important that you shovel along the length of the deck boards (with the grain). Never run the shovel across the width of the boards; doing so may scratch the deck and ruin stain or paint. Additionally, don’t use a metal shovel. While they are more durable than their plastic counterparts, they are much harder on your wood.

Don’t Salt Your Deck

One of your first thoughts when preparing for winter may be to salt your driveway, sidewalk and deck. You can do the first two, just skip salting your deck. Salt and ice melt can harm some deck finishes, which means in the spring, you’ll be re-staining to fix any discoloration.

More Things to Consider Before Winter

For some homeowners, the easiest solution may be to simply place a tarp over your deck and deck furniture – this will only work if you don’t plan to use your deck over the winter. Obviously, this is not a viable option for those who may have a hot tub, grill or outdoor fireplace on their decks that are used during winter.

If tarping your deck isn’t an option, you should at least consider tarping the furniture when not in use. Better yet, if you have room in a shed or garage, consider moving furniture to a protected and enclosed location.

If spring rolls around and you notice areas that have warped or cracked due to moisture accumulation from snow or ice, contact a local builder through our Find a Deck Builder page. A professional will come inspect the damage and give you a quote for repair so that you can get back to enjoying the great outdoors from the comforts of your deck.