What Is The Best Protection For A Wooden Deck?

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You can’t do much wrong by adding a deck to your house. A deck will add an extra, outdoor living space that allows you to entertain like a boss. Think of alfresco dinners and barbeques for friends and family! 

So a deck is up there with the home improvement projects with the best returns. And of the many decking materials you can choose, some of which offer superior weather resistance, it is hard not to fall for wood’s warmth and natural beauty.

The trouble is, without adequate moisture and UV protection, your deck is exposed to all manner of damage. On this page, we explore your best options for protecting your wooden deck so it not only lasts long but looks good for just as long.

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How to protect your wooden deck?

First, we need to identify the biggest issues you will have to deal with to get the best and longest service out of your new wooden deck.

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Sun damage

The goal is for your deck to look new for as long as possible, which means protecting its natural color and character. For this, the biggest enemy will be UV radiation. 

Direct sunlight bleaches wood of its natural color, turning it a silvery grey. Unless that’s what you are looking for, you will need some form of UV protection for your deck. 

Excessive sunlight also damages wood fibers, making your decking boards, posts, and railings susceptible to cracking and warping. Needless to say, this weakens the entire structure and presents a major safety risk for all who use the deck.

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Moisture damage

Something that also erodes your deck’s looks is moisture damage. Without waterproofing, your wood deck absorbs water when it rains, causing it to expand. 

As the wood dries, it contracts back to size. This constant expansion and shrinking causes warping and cracking, with the same effects as we discussed above.

If conditions are especially wet and humid, the absorbed moisture can cause mildew, mold, and rot. That last one is the worst thing that could happen.

The best protection for wooden decks

So we have identified excessive sunlight and moisture – whose effects are color bleaching, cracking, warping, mold, mildew, and rotting – as the two biggest impediments to a long and satisfying deck service life.

What we need now are solutions to these problems. First, let’s deal with sun damage:

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Staining is the best shield against sun damage for wooden decks

The best way to protect wood’s natural grain and the color is to apply some kind of pigmentation to its surface. Instead of the sun’s rays hitting the wood surface directly, bleaching it of its natural color, it hits the applied stain.

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Apply a stain at least once a year and you can be sure the wood’s natural character and color are protected, at least underneath the stain. Importantly, the stain adds a protective film that prevents the wood from cracking and warping.

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It follows too that the darker the stain you use and the more regularly you apply it, the more protected your deck will be. 

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Though not sufficient, the oils in most stain formulations also allow for some degree of waterproofing. The waterproofed surface shields the deck from moisture damage, which we discuss next:

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Sealants are the best protection against moisture damage

While staining offers the best UV protection for wooden decks, it does not provide nearly as much protection from moisture damage. So after applying your stain, you have got to make sure you apply a seal to waterproof the wood and ‘seal in’ the stain you have just applied.

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Wood sealants perform a waterproofing function. They add a film over the surface of the wood that makes it hard for water to seep into the wood. Instead of soaking into the wood, the water just beads up and rolls off.

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With all this said, you need to remember there does not exist a wood stain or sealant that guarantees permanent protection against sun and moisture damage.

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You will need to restain and reseal your wooden deck at least once every year to make sure it remains protected from the elements. As you reapply your sealant, you need to make sure you are doing it right:

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Quick tips on how to apply wood sealants

How well protected your wooden deck is depends on how well you apply your chosen stain and sealant. Here are some tips on applying sealant to your wooden deck:

        1. Before applying the sealant, make sure your deck is clean. Use a blower to clear all sanding dust and debris.
        2. You may need to sand the deck to ensure uniform application and to remove any old sealant that may prevent the new sealant from absorbing into the wood.
        3. Remove all furniture and flowerpots so you don’t miss any spots and leave parts of your deck unprotected.
        4. Choose a dry day that is neither too hot nor windy. If it’s too hot, the sealant may dry before it has fully absorbed and properly treated the wood.
        5. Instead of one thick coat, apply your sealant in several thin coats. This ensures a cleaner result and helps the sealant to dry faster and evenly.
        6. Allow the sealant to completely dry before using the deck.
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Choose deck finishes and sealants that last

Consult your local hardware store on the best deck finishes to use. You want to use deck finishes that give the best waterproofing. If you prefer your deck in the wood’s natural color, you are best served choosing clear deck finishes with UV protection.
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