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The dog days of summer are upon us, and now that you have finished all your outdoor projects around the home or cottage, you can enjoy some relaxation on your deck. What? You mean you haven’t completed everything on your honey-do list? Well, let’s get to that deck!

There is still time to get your wood, composite or PVC deck in shape. so Before you start, visit my website (masterhandyman.com) and download my educational brochure, “Deck Care Fast & Easy” featured at the bottom of the home page.

If your wood deck is in good physical shape and just needs to be cleaned up, you can use Cabot Problem Solver Wood Cleaner (cabotstain.com) or 30 Seconds Outdoor Cleaner (30secondscleaners.com) to bring it back to life.

If it needs more TLC, the next step will be to strip and re-coat it. To remove the old finish, use an environmentally friendly stripper such as Behr’s Premium Stain and Finish Stripper No. 64 (behr.com), Cabot’s Problem Solver Wood Stripper, or Peel Away Deck Stripper by Dumond Chemical (dumondchemicals.com).

Once it is stripped, then you have to determine what type of coating to put on it. If you are going to stain it, there are four categories of stains to choose from, including clears, semi-transparent, semi-solid and solid colors.

Using a clear or semi-transparent will still allow the grain of the wood to show through while offering some protection from the elements. On the other end of the spectrum, solid stains act more like paint and are great for matching the color of your deck to your siding or brick. And while most stains offer some level of UV protection for your wood, the solid color varieties offer the most protection, which is important if your deck gets a heavy dose of the sun’s rays during the hottest part of the day.

While stains are still a popular choice for homeowners with newer wood decks, decks that are older usually need a more serious coating to bring them back to life. Today there are a number of elastomeric coating products that are designed to cover all the cracks and blemishes of an older deck to make it look almost new. The difference is that these coatings are like using thick paint, not a stain, and therefore require the proper surface preparation and application to be effective.

One popular product is Restore from Rustoleum, (rustoleum.com).

“Restore 4X Deck Coat and Restore 10X Advanced are thicker coatings than traditional deck stains and paints,” said Laura Hickman, brand manager for Rustoleum. “Restore 4X is capable of filling hairline cracks, while Restore 10X is the thickest deck coating on the market and is the only deck coating that can truly fill quarter-inch cracks and restore the beauty of a heavily worn deck. “

Because these products are so thick, many DIYers think they can forgo stripping the old stain off the deck or even spreading it out more when applying. Both are bad ideas.

“Many of the consumers who have not received the desired results they would like have often left out some of the important steps of proper preparation or have applied the product incorrectly,” Hickman said.

“Restore 10X needs to be applied using a honeycomb roller, which is designed to release the correct amount of coating so that it builds up to be thick and have even coverage, “ Hickman added.

While wood decks are still common, more homes now feature either composite or PVC decks. Even though these types of deck require less maintenance than wood, they still need some annual care. To clean them properly, use a mild detergent with a soft bristled brush and rinse with the garden hose. These cleaners include Concrobium House & Deck Wash, (concrobium.com), Krud Kutter Multi-Purpose House Wash, (krudkutter.com) and SuperDeck Composite Deck Cleaner, (superdeck.com).

If the color on your composite deck has faded, you can stain it. Penofin’s Knotwood Oil Finish, (penofin.com), Sherwin Williams Deckscapes, (sherwin-williams.com) and Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Waterborne Exterior Stain, (benjaminmoore.com) are designed for this.

You’ve heard me call a deck “the four letter word that lives in the back yard”. If you clean it regularly and take care of it, the only four letter word you’ll be hearing is “nice”.

For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show With Glenn Haege” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations.

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