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Never Seal Your Deck Again?

 There are companies that have sprung up in the last few years that advertise “Never seal your deck again”.  It certainly makes for good advertising and certainly grabs attention, but what does it mean and what does it do for your wood?  

Sealing your wood protects the wood from moisture, but sealing out moisture is only a part of what is important to the long-term health of your wood.  Sealing does not protect the wood from what causes the most damage – the UV rays from the sun.  The only way to protect your wood from the sun is to stain (not the same as sealing) your wood.  The following describes what each does or doesn’t do:

·         Sealing wood:

o       Protects the wood from moisture

o       Sealers are always clear – sealers do not stain the wood

o       Does not prevent the wood from turning grey

§         Wood typically starts turning grey in 6 to 8 weeks after sealing

·         Staining wood

o       Sealers are not a stain, but stains are always a sealer

o       Protects the wood from moisture

o       Protects the wood from the UV rays of the sun

o       Prevents the wood from turning grey

o       Allows the wood to be stained with a color of the homeowner’s choosing

For more information, go to

 What should be used to protect wood?

Exterior wood must be properly maintained to extend the life of your wood, protect your investment and to maximize your enjoyment.  Paint has been used for centuries to protect wood.  However, paint is effective only on wood that is vertical.  Painting horizontal surfaces results in peeling within several months.  Horizontal wood surfaces that are stained with a coating versus a penetrant will have the same discouraging results.  When protecting horizontal wood surfaces, the only successful option is an oil based penetrating stain. 

 Here’s why:  In the sun the top of a deck floor board can be as much as 50 degrees hotter than the underside of the same board.  When wood is hot and dry it contracts.  When wood is cool and damp it swells.  At night or when the wood is in the shade, the top of the wood will again expand.  Depending where your deck is located on your home, this process of swelling and shrinking can occur several times a day.  This constant churning will not allow any coating to adhere to wood for very long.  The only product that will move with the wood is an oil based penetrating stain.  There are many penetrating stains on the market.

 What about stains that are supposed to last 4 to 6 years?

To keep your wood healthy, beautiful and long lasting it is not only important it be protected from the sun, but it must be kept clean –much like skin must be kept clean to stay healthy.  It is healthier for wood to be thoroughly cleaned and stained every 2 and 4 years than to extend it out every 6 to 7 years.  Dirt falls down, accumulates and gets ground into the horizontals surfaces of your wood.  This dirt needs to be removed with a thorough cleaning every couple years.  The vertical portions of your deck will not accumulate dirt like the horizontal surfaces so the vertical surfaces need to be thoroughly cleaned and stained only every 4 years.   

Is a rotating surface cleaning machine good for cleaning wood?

When cleaning horizontal surfaces, a rotating surface cleaning machine should not be used.  Surface cleaners are designed for concrete cleaning and should not be used on wood due to wood being soft.  Surface cleaners rotate which means the wood is being cleaned against the grain nearly 98% of the time.  Cleaning wood should always be done with the grain to protect the wood.   

How do I know when I should maintain my wood?

A great time to maintain your deck is before the plants come up and the furniture comes out.  When time is appropriate, as a Roof-to-Deck customer you will receive a wood maintenance reminder letter before the season starts which prompts you to secure an early spring cleaning and staining. 

Maintaining your wood will maximize your enjoyment and protect your investment.  Having the horizontal surfaces cleaned and stained every 2 years and the vertical portions every 4 years with Roof-to-Deck Restoration is your best value.

 Written by Mike Hilborn, founder of Roof-to-Deck Restoration, Executive Director and approved wood restoration educator of the Power Washers of North America (PWNA), Committee member of the Joint Coatings - Forest Products Committee.  Host of the Roof-to-Deck Home Show.


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