Ready to hire a contractor to re-finish your deck? Make sure you understand what you’re getting!

By February 4, 2014Tips

Beware of the ridiculously low priced specials you may find advertised. These deals are volume based meaning, the goal for that contractor is to get as many jobs scheduled and completed as quickly as possible to make up for those crazy low priced deals. They may also try to up-sell you other services to help offset that special low price.

To prevent unnecessary repairs, your deck should only be trusted to a professional wood cleaning contractor – a contractor that professionally cleans or strips your deck’s existing finish, uses cleaners that are safe around your plants and landscaping, properly neutralizes and brightens your deck, and applies a sealer that will be effective in preventing future deterioration. And most importantly, take the time it needs to ensure its done right!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind before having the work done:

Paints and solid color stains are generally not suitable for horizontal substrates subject to the weather, such as exposed deck and porches. The film-forming properties of these paints and coatings work against them in these situations. Penetrating semitransparent stains and water repellent finishes, on the other hand, do not generally peel or blister as they age. They fade and erode off the surfaces as they weather, making re-coating a much easier task. Wood is a dynamic substrate. Since these penetrating semi-transparent stains do not form discreet films, they are better able to move and breathe with the wood during the weathering cycles. One thing to remember, the goal of keeping your deck maintained is to ensure the re-finishing process does not cost you an arm and leg when its time to have it re-done. Solid stain or paints can not be stripped without professionally sanding the surfaces to remove the old coating. This absolutely has to be done before applying a new sealant. If not, the sealant or stain will not penetrate deep into the wood and will only sit on top of the surface having zero affect of protection and peel off within months. Not to mention trap the old mold and mildew under the original stain causing further damage. Stay with an oil-based semi-transparent or if need be a semi-solid stain. These are much easier to remove, look very nice and provide the best protection.

When used on decks, bleach-based products can do more harm the good. Not only are they ineffective in removing dirt, surface deposit, gray and UV-damaged fibers – they can leave the deck with a whitish’ unnatural tone due to the bleaching out of components in the wood. Treatment with hypochlorite-based products can also result in premature graying of the wood.

The most common unprofessional method by the low priced contractor is to blast high pressure 4 inches away from your woods surface using no cleaning solution in order to save money.  Do not allow this to happen! If this is the method they plan on using than you know right away to steer clear of that contractor.

After the cleaning process a neutralizer or wood brightener should be applied and rinsed. This will provide for a more professional looking finish when the stain is applied and bring the wood back to its natural PH balance. You will not get this process performed with the cheap deals because its an added cost in supplies and labor.

Finally, make sure you know and educate yourself on the best type of oil-based stains to use when sealing your deck. Stay away from the store bought water based stains you find at Home Depot or Lowes. If you absolutely had to use one, only use Olympic stains and sealers for semi-transparents & semi-solids. They are considered a hybrid oil & water combination.

Picture 1: This is what happens when a previous stain is not stripped/removed and a new seal applied over top. Mold and mildew are trapped under the original stain.

Picture 2: This shows both layers of stain removed prior to re-applying a new sealant by PlanetGreen PowerWash.

Another rule of thumb to remember is no stain will last longer than 3 years max. No matter what the can states. It may still look nice cosmetically but the truth is, mother nature has already taken over and has begun to wreck havoc on the surface. Have your deck re-sealed every 3 years if possible and never go past 4. Look for wood preservative sealers like TWP or Armstrong-Clark.