Unlike the logs that support log homes and are often somewhat protected from overhangs, decks take a much more brutal pounding by the elements and require attention to maintain. Decks’ horizontal surface allows rain and snow to sit for prolonged periods, quickly degrading existing deck stain and, over time, the wood itself, if not properly maintained. Furthermore, foot traffic, potted plants, furniture and continued exposure to direct sunlight adversely affect the life and beauty of the stain and, more importantly, the wood.
How often you’ll need to re-do your log-home deck varies, except you can be certain it will require attention more often than your logs. Similar to your log walls, decks don’t weather in a uniform fashion. After a year or two with some stains, areas exposed to direct sunlight may hold little or no trace of the old finish, while shaded surfaces may show very little degradation.
There are three primary ways that log-home deck care can maximize your deck’s longevity, structural integrity and aesthetics: periodic maintenance between stain applications, surface preparation and the staining itself.
Periodic Maintenance. Regardless of which stain is currently on your deck, periodic cleaning can extend its life. Pooling water can easily be swept off with a push broom. In addition, shoveling or sweeping snow from your deck will go a long way in preserving your deck stain and wood surface.
Pressure washing is the most popular method of cleaning decks. If you don’t have access to a pressure washer, a strong jet stream from a garden hose will also work. You’re simply looking to cleanse the surface, so don’t use excessive pressure that will remove existing stain, just enough to remove the topical contaminants (mold, mildew and algae).
Thoroughly rinse off any detergents you may use so they don’t dry on the wood surface. While diluted bleach solution is inexpensive and readily available, bleach is more of a brightening agent for unstained wood and really doesn’t contribute much to the cleaning. Also, it’s always best if bleach isn’t used on decks, particularly those with no stain where the bleach can absorb into the wood and damage the cells of the wood, negatively affecting the adhesion of stain.
Surface Preparation. For log-home decks where stain has built up over the years, decks that that have gone several years without maintenance and decks that have been darkened from the sun’s exposure, pressure washing can get down to clean, bright wood. If several coats of stain have built up over time, a chemical stripper may first need to be brushed on to help loosen the stain’s bond to the wood, and then pressure washed.
When pressure washing, find the best angle to use, as well as how close to get to the surface, depending on what’s being removed. Use continuous, sweeping and consistent motions to prevent leaving “fan lines” in the wood caused by starting and stopping in the middle of a board. It’s best to pressure wash an entire board to the end to minimize unsightly marks.
After any sort of cleaning involving water, give the deck ample time to dry before staining. While a light refresher coat of stain applied on top of your existing stain (after cleaning the surface) will increase its aesthetics and provide additional UV protection, maximum adhesion always takes place when a fresh coat of stain is applied to bare wood.
Mechanical grinding of a deck is also an option. While using an angle grinder with abrasive grinding disks will give you stellar results (clean, bright and smooth), it is by far the most time-consuming process.
Staining Your Deck. Pigments in your stain provide the vast majority of protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, whether for the deck or your log walls. Using a clear protectant or one with very little color will accelerate the graying effect the sun has on your wood. This doesn’t mean you need to apply a dark stain to provide sufficient protection. True, more pigment in a stain may, at times, contribute to its longevity, but you can also go with a pigment that closely resembles the color of your wood. This way you’ll get the necessary protection, yet your deck won’t appear heavily stained. Application with a paint roller (with substantial overlap marks in order to provide complete coverage) or brush provides better color consistency and penetration than spraying, although it takes a bit longer.