The Dos and Don’ts to Preparing Your Deck For Winter

The Dos and Don’ts to Prepping a Wood Deck for Winter

Fall is finally upon us , a time of changing trees, family gatherings and colder weather. To take advantage of this time of year – before the icy, snowy winter months hit – your clients will be looking to prepare their wood decks for the seasons ahead.

Here are a few key things contractors should keep in mind to help clients successfully prepare a deck for winter.

Encourage Your Clients to Act Now

Autumn is the best time to prep a wood deck for the months ahead for a few main reasons. First, while the days are still long enough, it is a bit cooler outside. This means materials used to prevent decay and preserve a deck, such as detergent or mold killers, won’t melt or dry up in 90 degree heat. Prepping a deck during this time also means it will be ready for the spring season after snow from the winter months melts away.

Even if your clients don’t experience snow, it is still a key season for deck prep. In the south, the months ahead are a prime time to be outside, so outdoor decks should be perfected for upcoming events with family and friends. In western regions, while your clients may only get rain, water–and anything the water carries with it– can remain on their decks for periods of time. They’ll need an extra layer of protection to prevent damage.

Decks can also be left in poor shape after months of being beat up by the sun all summer long. Acting now means your clients won’t have to deal with additional maintenance in the winter and spring.

Start with a Deck Check

A critical first step to any deck prep is walking the deck to inspect it from all angles. No two decks are the same, but there are a few common practices that will help in all scenarios.

This includes checking for leaves and other materials, which may carry dirt with them, to avoid build up. If your client has an older wood deck, encourage them to have you as the contractor check the ledger connection and flashing as well.

A few specific things to check:

  • Stair Posts: are they solidly connected?
  • Pickets and Railings: are they all fastened and secure?
  • Fasteners: are they installed properly and working on the deck?
  • Trees: make sure there are not any heavy limbs hanging over the deck or house that may fall when weather hits.

I’d highly recommend referencing the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) consumer checklist to ensure you have examined the right places.

Educate Clients on What They Can DIY

If your client is set on the DIY route, there are steps you should encourage them to take, and times you should encourage them to pull in a professional.

For instance, when it comes to checking posts, take a screwdriver to each one to see if there is any rot or decay. If structural repairs are needed, it’s smarter to hire a contractor to ensure the deck is built correctly this time around.

If a tree is hanging over the deck, either trim the branches or have a tree removal service do this. Remember to check high and low too–it’s not uncommon for animals to take shelter in the shade a deck provides. If homeowners find unwanted critters, it’s best to pull in wildlife control services to properly handle the situation.

Take Your Time, and Build it Right

Finally, it is important to note that each deck will vary depending on the techniques and practices with which they were built. So encourage your clients to work with a professional if they want their deck to stay strong and healthy until the spring.

Mark Clement

Mark knows more about tools than anyone has a right to know. With his wife Theresa, Mark hosts the popular MyFixitUpLife talk show, is the general contractor for Food Network’s ‘Save My Bakery,’ and has been a project manager for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and expert guest on PBS, DIY Network, Discovery Channel, A&E, NBC’s The 10! Show, Good Day Philadelphia, and other national radio and TV programs.