In the late 1990s garden decking became hugely popular. It is perfect for obtaining a balance between a natural look and making practical use of space. It makes creating different levels, steps and covering unwanted surfaces a relatively easy task. Unfortunately our climate is not kind to wood and many homeowners have learnt the hard way that decks built in shade quickly become very slippery in the resulting damp conditions and that it is not a surface you can just leave for years and expect it to stay in good condition. However, despite the typical British extremes of wet, cold and ice during winter followed by baking hot conditions in summer (hopefully), with the correct care and attention a decked area can easily exceed 30 years of use. To achieve this, the following steps should be taken before winter begins.

  • Pick the right day – A sunny day just before winter starts is the best time preferably choosing a time that will give a window of at least six hours of dry weather before the any rain might begin.
  • Clear the deck surface – Start by making sure that the decking surface is free of any clutter, obstacles and garden furniture. When clearing the area do not drag furniture on the deck as this might damage the oily coat which protects the wood.
  • Brush the deck thoroughly – Using a stiff broom brush the area to get rid of any dirt and debris which has accumulated over the summer months. Unlike an indoor brush which has soft fibres aimed to collect dust, a stiff broom is designed to slightly scrub the surface, thereby removing larger particles.
  • Wash the deck – Although not absolutely necessary this will help to ensure that no dirt and debris particles are left on the deck. A pressure washer is useful for this job but a garden hose will also work well. Do not use an industrial grade pressure washer (above 1500 psi/100 bar) as it might damage the oily coat which protects the wood.
  • Treat hard stains – Stains such as food and drink residue can be removed using either soda crystals or a chemical cleaning agent. Soda crystals are not only the cheapest option but are also more environmentally friendly and easy to use. Simply spray warm water over the decked surface and sprinkle on the crystals allowing the surface to dry before giving the area a thorough brush using a stiff broom. When using chemical cleaning products it is important to pay attention to health and safety by carefully reading the product’s instructions.
  • Treat the wood – This will give the wood protection over the winter months. The best result is achieved by using decking oil which will seal the wood by penetrating into the timber leaving a natural looking finish on its surface. Apply two thin coats of oil using a soft-haired paint brush and wait an hour between each coat. The soft-haired brush will ensure that no puddles of surplus oil are left.
  • Leave to dry – Depending on the weather, garden furniture may be returned to the area after a couple of hours. Again it is important to take care not to drag along the surface.

This job is worth your time and effort, as this yearly process will greatly help improve the longevity of the wood.