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When & How to protect your decking

Aug 11, 2020

Bring your decking back to life and protect it from the elements

with a few Ideas from Cronin's Hardware

All the external elements can take a major toll on your decking. Applying an oil sealant, paint or stain not only looks great but also helps preserve and protect it throughout the year. I'm going to go through the step-by-step process of how to protect your decking the right way, whether you have a new deck or restoring an existing one. There will be a little preparation involved before the initial coat can be applied. Its basically a three-part process where we remove any old stain or coatings that were applied previously, getting rid of any dirt and grime deep within the boards and the final step is to seal and protect the wood.

To get the most out of your deck you will want to treat it at least every two years. You can test if your timber deck is ready to coat by performing the water bead test. Sprinkle a few droplets of water onto the timber boards, If the water droplets bead up then not all tannins or oils have weathered. This is exactly what stain and sealant does for your deck, it seals it and protects it, yet if the droplets soak into the timber then it's time to treat your decking. Its important to allow any newly layed decking boards to whether for at least three to six months before coating as this will allow any of the preservatives or naturally occurring oils in a timber to break down, this will ensure that the timber will immediately absorb the treatment.


The first step is going to be preparation. This is not an area to do half hearted. If you do not properly prepare your decks surface it won't take the sealant, wasting all your hard work and time. When dealing with an older deck that has a lot of dirt and debris on the surface that's hard to get rid of we need to first power wash it so that we can remove any old stain, dirt, debris and mildew that's accumulated over the years. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for the distance as to avoid gouging and damaging the wood, especially softwoods which seem to be the most common. 

The next step in the preparation is to thoroughly clean the deck. After removing the top layer of grime with the pressure washer we need to now use a deck cleaner that's really going to penetrate into the boards and bring up dirt that's not just on the surface. It is important to make sure that you're treatment adheres to your deck. If you were to skip this step you could end up with peeling or an uneven finish. Even though the decking has already been pressure washed and a lot of the dirt and debris has been taken off, a good decking cleaner is really going to help draw out the rest of the dirt. The other thing it's going to do is brighten up the wood, bringing it back to its natural appearance. There's a variety of different options when it comes to decking cleaner and you'll want to pay attention to your specific wood type and your situation to choose the best one for you. An example would be Ronseal Decking Cleaning and Reviver. Its ideal for cleaning old decking and preparing new wood. It will have your decking looking good as new in no time at all. It opens the pores of the wood so your oil, stain or paint will adhere and leave you with a longer lasting finish. 

The Finished Coat

With all the different products on the market these days which one do you choose? There are mainly two forms of coatings to choose from, water based and oil based and from this we have transparent, semi-transparent and solid. It can look a bit confusing but I'm going to break them down which will allow you to choose the right treatment for your situation. Water based products are easer to apply, have a lower odor and will dry a lot faster allowing it to be rain ready if the weather suddenly turns, whereas oil based products offer a deeper penetration, have slightly longer lasting finish and do tend to be a bit more durable in the long run. Transparent products produce a subtle finish that enhances the timbers natural appearance keeping its original colour. Semi-transparent products will generally change its appearance, its colour, but still allowing you to see its natural features and solid coatings which leave a solid membrane on the surface, which is similar to a coat of paint. It will cover all of the woods natural features with a thin layer and offer a great range of colours but once its applied to the surface, your committed to that style of treatment as it is hard to revert back. It is important to understand that timber outdoors is constantly swelling and shrinking with the absorption and loss of moisture so there's a practical and esthetic consideration that needs to be made when choosing the right one.

Now that you have decided on the right treatment that's better suited for your decking there are a few ways it can be applied depending on the chosen product. Firstly stir the contents of the tin very well. This will insure any content that's settled to the bottom is incorporated into the mix. Use a brush for the edges working your way around the whole perimeter, so long as you do not overlap onto the neighbouring board. Now depending on the type of deck you own will determine the next step. For flat decking boards a roller is the preferred method, its fast, easy to use but it does tend to splatter so be mindful when working near walls. For ridged boards a special applicating brush or pad is used. It will ensure the product will penetrate deep into the grooves. To ensure an even surface and avoid any overlapping marks run the applicator along the full length of the decking two to three boards at a time while working back into the previously treated area for an even coverage. Most decking products will require at least two coats. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions to find out the required drying time between coats.

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