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Deck Maintenance Tips

February 4th, 2021 | 2 min read

By Michael Flory

Man repairing the surface of a deck

Proper maintenance is important to keep your home looking its best. Here is a list of deck maintenance tips will ensure your outdoor deck continues to be a beautiful addition to your home year after year.

Wood Deck Care
(This includes all wolmanized lumber, cedar, redwood, pine decks.)

Why do Decks Need to be Maintained?

With proper maintenance and regular staining, a wood deck can last up to 30 years.

How Often Should I Stain My Deck?

Deck staining should take place every 2-3 years depending on use and exposure to weather. Wood weathers and decomposes due to many elements. The two main elements that cause damage to exterior wood are moisture(caused by rain, dew, etc.) and ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Other common factors are traffic, location, and temperature. All these factors contribute to the degradation of the wood’s lignin, which is a glue-like substance that holds wood together. When lignin begins to break down it will cause splitting, checking, raised grain, and, most obvious, discoloration of wood. Mildew growth along with the cellulose left as the lignin degrades leads to a surface that is gray in color.

Loose fibers on the surface need to be removed before the deck is stained, otherwise, the hard work of staining the deck will simply seal in the discolored and weathered-looking wood.

Deck Maintenance Terms & Uses


Designed to remove old stain.


All wood surfaces should have a neutral pH balance before any stain is applied. Using wood cleaners and strippers will alter the pH, and require the use of a brightener to restore the wood to its neutral state. By applying a wood brightener, a neutral environment is created on the wood surface. This helps to open up the wood pores and lighten the wood. The result is a “brand new wood” look that is always desired. The longevity of the stain is directly proportional to the surface preparation. Achieving a neutral surface through the use of a wood brightener will ensure the best results for the staining process. Using a wood brightener is always recommended anytime a cleaning or stripping agent is used.


The vast array of stains and sealers on the market today fall into three different categories. Solid, semi-transparent, and transparent. Solid stains are film-forming stains that actually lay on top of the wood. Solid stains, like all stains and sealers, will breakdown over time. Beyond fading, the effects of the sun along with excess moisture will cause solid stains to peel and chip. We believe the best way to protect exterior wood is through the use of non film- forming oil based stains. These are labeled as transparent and semi-transparent stains. Stains in these categories are penetrating, and do not form a film that sits on top of the wood’s surface.

Armstrong Stains

Penetrating transparent and semi-transparent stains contain pigments and oils that do not form a surface. Our recommended stain is Armstrong. Armstrong’s formula is a combination of drying and non-drying oils that gives the user two layers of protection.

Armstrong’s Wood Stains have non-drying conditioning oils that separate from the drying side of the formula. These oils penetrate deep into the wood fiber where the wood’s natural oils used to be. This process rejuvenates the wood. The drying oils stay at the surface, lock in the conditioning oils, and create a barrier that is dry to the touch.

Deck Maintenance Tips For Other Deck Types

Tropical Hardwood Deck Care

Tropical hardwoods include Ipe, Tigerwood, and Teak. When caring for tropical woods: At least once a year, rinse let dry for 24 hours and then treat with hard oil.

Composite Deck Cleaning

Like most things left outside they need to be cleaned, your composite deck is no different. Most composite decking is a mix of recycled plastic and recycled wood fiber. It is the organic material in composite decks that can mold over time.

Use a composite deck cleaner specifically designed to address to remove mold and mildew from your composite. Powerful penetrating detergents carry the deck cleaner rapidly through soils and into the pores of the deck to control mold and its spores at their source.

Other Commonly Asked Questions About Deck Maintenance

Why Does Wood Deteriorate?

Pure and simple it loses its protective non-drying natural oils


Michael Flory

Michael brings over 2 decades of building and remodeling experience to his position as the Owner and Visionary of Custom Built. Michael’s passion to make an impact on the home building industry has led him to serve for over ten years at the local and state Home Builders Association, culminating as President of the HBA of Michigan in 2020.