How to Protect Your Deck or Patio in the Winter

For many people, your deck or patio might be the most prized aspect of your house: a spot for birthday parties and barbecues, quiet afternoons relaxing with a book, or simply an outdoor escape.  However you use it, you want to keep your deck or patio in optimal condition, and that means you must properly protect your deck or patio from the hazardous elements of winter. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your outdoor abode protected in the winter.

Protect Your Deck Made of Wood

Wood Deck
photo by starmist1

The first step to protect your deck is understanding your deck’s enemies that ride in with the winter weather. The principle enemy for any deck or patio is moisture. Moisture has many incarnations, but it is the common suspect in any crimes committed on your deck/patio during the winter months. Moisture erodes wood and stone and creeps into any crack and fissure. Moisture can lead to mildew and mold, which will rot away your wood even faster and eventually lead to replacing old beams. Of course, some beams, like load bearing supports or pillars, can’t simply be replaced as easily as some of the floor boards or spindles, making the effects of mildew and mold much more caustic to your deck’s structure if not properly treated. Moisture, when couple with freezing temperatures, also has potential to split bricks and boards as the water turns to ice and expands inside cracks and other flaws. Preventing moisture accumulation and access is your number one priority in protecting your deck, what follows are some ways of fighting moisture.

Remove Seasonal Items from your deck or patio and store them in a safe, dry place. Leaving them on your deck exposes them to the same hazardous elements of winter, as well as providing more places for grime and mold to accumulate over the course of the season.

Scrub and Clean: As winter approaches, leaves fall and other foliage and dirt gets blown around in various places. Make sure you actively keep brushing, scrubbing or sweeping your deck or patio as these leaves and dust are basically depots for mold and mildew to take root. A push broom is great for this task as the sharp bristles will help scrape away dirt without gouging the wood or stone. Power-washing is also recommended as it will get in those hard to reach areas your broom may not. Just make sure you keep a force lower than 800 pounds per square inch as some of the heavier settings can damage the wood. Make sure when power-washing that you clean the whole surface of the deck or patio, the horizontal and vertical surfaces. You’ll want to do this before the frost starts settling in as you’ll want the water to evaporate fully, or else you’re just giving ammunition to the enemy.

Bleaching your deck or patio will also help remove any unwanted elements. Mix in a bit of bleach with your garden sprayer and lay down a light mist over the entirety.

Protect Your Brick or Slate Patio

Slate Patio w/ Outdoor Fireplace
photo by ARNOLD Masonry & Concrete

Inspect and Fix: Once you’ve gotten the deck cleaned and scrubbed, examine your deck and patio for any spots that may be damaged and need to either be fixed or replaced. Look for loose nails and pound those back in place as moisture can seep in around them. Find places where the wood or finish is chipped, splintered or otherwise rough; the rougher the surface, the more likely it will attract debris, dirt and caustic elements. Use a belt sander to buff away the roughness and touch up any areas with your finish or stain. Brick patios have the advantage of not needing as much upkeep as their wooden cousins, but they still need some attention. Power-washing the grouting and bricks will help keep out the same elements as above and if you see a cracked or broken brick, replace it, as the damage from winter might impact the surrounding, healthy bricks.

Maintain: Keep an eye on your deck and patio even after you’ve done all of these steps. The weather and its elements will keep on coming throughout the season so one brushing or sweeping likely won’t be enough. You won’t have to power-wash or stain weekly, but actively brushing away leaves and dirt won’t take too much time and will prolong the life of your structure.

With these tips and tricks you should find yourself looking at a healthy deck or patio once spring and warm weather returns. This means you’ll be able to spend the first nice days enjoying your deck instead of running around and making repairs to it.

About the Author: Mike Zook has been writing about home repair and remodeling for nearly a decade. When he’s not writing, Mike works as an engineer, designing tanks for hydraulic fracturing to help protect the water supply.

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