The older wooden decks get, the more likely they are to become a safety hazard. Split or rotting wood is a clear sign that outdoor patios and decks are no longer safe, and may need to be repaired, or possibly even replaced, which can cost upwards of $9,000.
With about 40 million residential decks in the U.S. that are over 20 years old, odds are that your deck may be heading for such an expensive fate.
Luckily, homeowners can fight the effects of aging by cleaning their outdoor wood decks, but they have to do it properly, otherwise it won’t help. Here a few tips to help.
Prep the Pressure Washer
Begin by inspecting your pressure washer to ensure it is in good working condition. Check for any damage to hoses, nozzles, and connections. If you find any issues, repair or replace the faulty parts before proceeding.
Next, choose the appropriate pressure setting and nozzle for cleaning a wooden deck. Generally, a low-pressure nozzle (typically a 25- to 40-degree fan spray) works best to avoid damaging the wood. Assemble the pressure washer according to the manufacturer’s instructions and connect the water supply. Test the pressure washer on a small, inconspicuous area of the deck to ensure the pressure setting and nozzle are suitable for your wood type.
Clear the deck of all furniture, plants, and other objects. Sweep away any loose debris, such as leaves, twigs, or dirt, to create a clean surface for pressure washing. Inspect the deck for damaged or rotten wood, loose nails, or raised screws, and make the necessary repairs before proceeding. If there is any mildew, mold, or stubborn dirt, pre-treat these areas with a deck cleaner or mild detergent solution, and allow it to sit for a few minutes as directed by the cleaner’s instructions. Fill the reservoir with a deck-specific pressure-washing detergent.
Finally, wet down any surrounding vegetation or nearby surfaces with water to minimize potential damage from the pressure washing process. With these steps completed, you are now ready to pressure wash your wooden deck safely and effectively.
Pressure Wash the Deck
- Start at a corner: Begin pressure washing in the corner of the deck, working in sections to ensure complete coverage. This will make it easier to track your progress and avoid missing any spots.
- Maintain a consistent distance: Hold the pressure washer’s wand about 12 to 18 inches from the deck’s surface. Maintaining a consistent distance will prevent damage to the wood and help create an even, clean appearance.
- Use a sweeping motion: Move the wand in a sweeping motion, overlapping each pass by about 50% to ensure an even clean. Avoid directing the spray at a single spot for too long, as this can damage the wood fibers and leave unsightly marks.
- Follow the grain of the wood: As you pressure wash, follow the direction of the wood grain. This will help to lift and remove dirt and debris more effectively, reducing the risk of damage to the wood fibers.
- Rinse thoroughly: Once you have completed pressure washing the entire deck, use a garden hose to rinse the surface thoroughly. This will help to remove any remaining dirt or cleaning solution and prevent residue from drying on the surface.
- Allow the deck to dry: After rinsing, let it dry completely before replacing furniture or walking on it. Depending on the weather conditions, this may take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.
- Inspect the deck: Once it is dry, inspect it for any areas needing additional cleaning or touch-ups. If necessary, repeat the pressure washing process on these specific areas.
Once you have completed pressure washing the entire deck, use a garden hose to rinse the surface thoroughly. This will help to remove any remaining dirt or cleaning solution and prevent residue from drying on the surface.
After rinsing, let it dry completely before replacing furniture or walking on it. Depending on the weather conditions, this may take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.
Once it is dry, inspect it for any areas needing additional cleaning or touch-ups. If necessary, repeat the pressure washing process on these specific areas.