Decking is found in so many of our back gardens, it’s synonymous with Australian outdoor living. This is because its relatively simple to construct, sustainable and versatile as it can be built to a myriad of different shapes and heights with ease. The one drawback with timber decking is the ongoing maintenance. If you want the fresh crisp look you get with a new deck, you’ll need to apply a decking oil or stain every 6 – 12 months depending on how much sun exposure and wear and tear it gets. Even if you are after the aged silver look you should periodically give it a good clean and treat it with an oil to get better longevity out of the boards.
To start you need to clear off your deck of all furniture and old pots so it’s completely clear, it’s much easier to work this way rather than store everything down one end and then move it up to the other halfway through the process. This will also ensure a professional an even finish when it comes to applying the oil or stain and you shouldn’t get any lapping marks.
You then need to protect the plants surrounding your deck – you are about to give the decking a good clean with a chemical that will burn the leaves of your plants so protect them well. I like to use a roll of builder’s plastic to ensure there are no spills. It’s a good idea to soak your garden beds too so any runoff is diluted in the soil and less harmful to plants roots.
To clean your boards there are lots of products on the market, however I have found using a diluted oxalic acid does the same job as many products 10 times the price. Another good cheat is hot napi san as this will lift any old oil and grim out of the timber getting it ready for a fresh coat of protective finish. You need to scrub your product of choice in with a stiff brush and leave it for 15 minutes to ensure its working to its maximum. Don’t let the product dry on the board so be prepared to get back on the deck and wet it up with cleaning solution whilst you wait for the timer to go down.
To remove the cleaning product, dirt and grime its best to use a high-pressure washer to clean off the decking boards as this will make light work of it, work in one direction and try to stay off the clean timber. I would then go around and soak your garden beds again to further dilute the solution, protecting your plants.
With your deck clean and dirt free you need to leave it to completely dry out. It needs to be bone dry before applying your new finish so leave it overnight, if possible, for best results.
When applying your new finish, for hardwoods I like to use a water-based stain in a natural finish, and I apply at least two coats with a lamb’s wool applicator for an even appearance. Being water based it’s much easier to work with and modern water-based stains have just as much durability than an oil. The natural finish allows for the colouring of the timber to come through giving you the warmth that attracted you to decking in the first place. If you have a soft wood like treated pine you could add a colour pigment to help tie the deck to the reminder of the garden design.
Let your boards dry overnight again before re dressing your deck as this will allow for all the new stain to absorb into the boards effectively and deeply. If you have timber furniture it’s a good idea to go through the whole process with this too as this will rejuvenate your whole outdoor setting ready for entertaining family and friends.