If your Massachusetts home has an older wood deck, it’s hard to keep it looking and performing optimally year-after-year while it takes a constant beating from foot traffic, the weather and other damaging forces. If you’re not careful, your home’s backyard escape can quickly start showing aging signs like warping, fading and cracking. The key to preserving your deck’s longevity and appearance for all those summertime BBQs is knowing what you’re up against. Based on our experience at Seal-a-Deck, these forces commonly damage wood decks in Massachusetts.
Your wood deck is constantly exposed to moisture, whether it’s rain, snow, sleet or ice. Wood is also naturally hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water. If you live near the ocean, saltwater accelerates the deck aging process by targeting metal nails, screws and fasteners. Decks built closer to the ground are poorly ventilated and tend to absorb more moisture from underneath, which then increases the likelihood for wood rot, mold, mildew and fungus. When it’s windy, that added force drives water droplets deeper into the wood.
Most decks we see are pressure-treated pine or cedar, both of which do a nice job of resisting moisture if cleaned and resealed every two years. Otherwise, water is then able to penetrate the wood where it gets dried out by the sun’s powerful rays. As this cycle repeats, decking boards start to fade, warp and crack. Although a well-maintained pine or cedar deck should last for 15 to 20 years, its shaded areas are at an even greater risk for moisture damage and wood rot.
Harder woods like Ipe and mahogany not only look luxurious, they’re also naturally moisture resistant. These exotic-looking woods cost more than pine or cedar and still require some annual upkeep to retain their original color. Composite decks resist water well, but they can still absorb some moisture, and then expand and contract due to temperature fluctuations. For clients who want a totally moisture-resistant material, we usually recommend wood-free PVC.
Summers in Massachusetts mean intense sunlight, and its powerful UV rays can fade wood’s natural pigment and break up the lignin that holds wood fibers together. To see how much of the sun’s heat your deck is absorbing, walk barefooted across it in the middle of a hot July day. As was mentioned earlier, when wood absorbs moisture and is then exposed to direct sunlight, it can dry out unevenly and cause board warping and edge curling. In addition to 100% wood decks, composite decks can also fade when exposed to direct sunlight.
A big plus with composites is the fact they won’t absorb heat, which makes enjoying your deck barefooted even on the hottest summer days possible. To protect a natural wood deck from sun damage, it’s best to clean and re-stain/reseal it every two years with a product that contains a good UV inhibitor. This is also recommended for Ipe and mahogany, and in the case of mahogany a good penetrating oil with a UV blocker works best.
Massachusetts has several types of wood-infesting insects, including termites, powder post beetles and carpenter ants. If you live in or near the woods, your wood deck is more vulnerable to our wood-boring friends, and wetter areas attract more beetles. All the woods we install at Seal-a-Deck are insect-resistant, including pressure-treated pine, cedar, Ipe and mahogany. Composite materials contain some wood particles, so bug infestations do rarely occur, and PVC, of course, has no wood in it at all.
Running children, patio furniture and grills can all team up to cause noticeable wear-and-tear to your exposed decking and stairs. Cedar looks beautiful, but is softer than pine and therefore more susceptible to scratches and splintering, while beautiful hardwoods like mahogany and Ipe are highly scratch resistant due to their tight graining and natural rigidity. Composite and PVC decks are very durable too, but they can still show scratches or dents if you’re not careful.
When your old wood deck needs some TLC, call the deck repair experts at Seal-a-Deck. Since 2003, homeowners in Massachusetts have placed their trust in our affordable deck repairs, check-ups, redecking projects and new deck constructions. As an eco-friendly company, we are strongly committed to reducing waste and saving money for our valued clients. If we can assist you today, please call the Seal-a-Deck team at: 978-538-7325, or visit: www.sealadeck.com now!