How to Keep Your Deck Looking Good and Prevent Problems

Regular cleaning and inspections will keep your deck looking good and prevent problems. Before staining, check that the wood is dry and cover nearby plants with plastic sheeting to protect them from excess cleaner or stain.


Use a screwdriver to probe around wood areas, especially the ledger (the part that connects the deck to your house). Soft spots are a sign of rot and should be treated promptly. To learn more, visit

The ledger board is the 2” by 10” or 2” by 12” piece of lumber that connects your deck to your house or another deck-anchoring structure. It provides essential structural support and distributes the weight of the decking, and is one of the primary locations where a deck can experience dry rot.

If you have a wood deck, a properly attached ledger is critical to the longevity of your deck. If the ledger has been secured only with nails or other fasteners, it should be re-attached using lag screws or bolts. If a ledger is pulled away from the home, it can lead to significant damage.

In addition to checking the condition of the ledger and ensuring that it is properly flashed, you should also examine your deck posts for signs of rot. A slender screwdriver or awl can be used to test the integrity of a post by poking into the grain. If the tip of the tool can easily penetrate deeper than 1/4 to 1/2 inch, it is likely that the post is rotting.

A weakened deck can pull away from the house or cause a ceiling collapse, which poses serious safety risks for anyone standing on the deck. If you see any cracks in the posts or visible rot, have a professional inspect them immediately.

If a rotting deck or porch is not addressed promptly, it can cause serious damage to the home and result in expensive repairs. Fortunately, dry rot is preventable with the proper knowledge and preventative measures. Taking these steps can help you avoid costly and dangerous problems in your deck remodel project.

With the right preventative maintenance and attention to details, your deck can be a functional, safe part of your home for years to come. If you are considering a deck remodel, contact Trex to learn more about our state-of-the-art protection for ledger boards and flashing. By understanding the role and importance of these components, you can keep your deck in good shape for the long haul.

Clean the Deck

Decks require year-round attention to keep them safe and attractive. If your deck is in bad shape, it can be a slip-and-fall hazard and a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Keeping up with the maintenance will also help prevent moisture damage that can cause wood rot and insect infestations.

To start, you should clear the area around your deck to make it easier to work and avoid harming nearby plants with soap spray. Move outdoor furniture, grills, toys, and rugs to a safer location while you clean the deck. You should also cover any plants that might be affected by the soapy water with tarps or plastic sheets.

Begin with sweeping to remove any loose debris such as dirt, leaves, sticks, and mold and mildew. Next, scrub the surface of your deck with a stiff brush and a strong household cleaning solution. You can buy a commercial cleaner at any home improvement store, or you can use a mixture of 1 cup oxygen bleach per gallon of water to scrub away the grime. Scrub a small section at a time, and be sure to scrub the corners and any nooks and crannies where stains tend to develop. Rinse the deck thoroughly with a garden hose to wash off the cleaning solution and leave it looking clean.

As you rinse the deck, look for any rotten boards that might need to be replaced. Examine the ledger board to see if there is any moisture damage or a gap between it and your house, and check for signs of wood rot in the posts and joists beneath the deck. If you find any rotting, make a note of it and be prepared to replace the affected boards.

You should also sand the surface of your deck with a pole sander to smooth it and remove any rough edges. Once the sanding is complete, rinse the deck again to wash off any remaining grit and dust. Then, let it dry for several hours before resuming use. Factors such as weather, temperature, and humidity affect the amount of time it takes for your deck to dry completely, so be sure to watch the weather forecast before you resume use.

Inspect the Railings and Stairs

A deck can become a dangerous place for children and adults if the railings or stairs are damaged. Inspecting these areas regularly can prevent injury to anyone using the deck and help keep the structure safe for use.

A Deck’s Frame

Concrete footings spread the weight of a deck and its occupants over a greater surface area, protecting the wooden joists and ledger boards below. Examine these structural components for rot, loose nails and screws and other damage.

Insect Damage

Wood-boring insects such as termites and carpenter ants can damage decks, especially if they aren’t treated with insect-resistant wood. Check for signs of infestation such as a musty odor, small holes in the wood surface and soft, hollow areas that feel soft when you press on them. If you notice any of these signs, hire a pest control specialist immediately to protect your investment and avoid costly repairs later.

Stairs and Railings

Check stairs, railings and handrails for loose or rusty nails and screws that need to be tightened or replaced. Make sure that the balusters (vertical elements) aren’t spaced too far apart, as this can cause a hazard for young children who may get their head caught in between them. It’s also a good idea to check that the handrails meet established building codes for height and strength.

A well-maintained deck can be a great addition to your home, adding comfort and value to your outdoor living spaces. Inspecting a deck regularly for loose boards, cracks, splinters, and other damage will ensure that it’s safe for everyone who uses it. If you aren’t comfortable performing complex repairs or replacing deck boards, contact a professional for assistance. A contractor can perform a thorough inspection and complete any necessary repairs quickly and effectively. They can also advise you about the best finish for your deck to keep it looking its best and to protect it from moisture and sun damage. For example, they can recommend a stain that will resist fading and discoloration from UV light. They can also provide advice about other protective treatments, such as a waterproof sealant or an aluminum barrier.

Replace Damaged Boards

Some cracking and warping are normal for most decks, but if the problem is extensive you may need to replace some boards. If the deterioration is localized, though, it could be possible to simply repair the damaged areas rather than replace all of the boards on the deck.

Loose floorboards can be a safety hazard and they also allow water to seep under the boards and cause rot and mold. It’s important to prioritize long-term safety and consider replacing loose boards as soon as you notice them.

If a board is severely cracked, chipped or gouged it needs to be replaced. These types of problems can lead to splinters and make the deck unsafe.

Wood and fabricated decks will experience different natural damages, so your maintenance schedule should be adapted to reflect the type of deck you have and its environment. Decks in rainy climates, for example, will need to be inspected and cleaned more often than those in dry climates since the deck is more susceptible to moisture damage.

Staining wood is an easy way to protect it from moisture damage, but you should only stain the deck once it’s completely dry. This means that the stain has had time to absorb fully and the wood has had time to expand and contract according to weather conditions. You can test the wood for drying by applying water to a small section of the deck and observing how quickly it becomes saturated.

A few spots of graying from the sun is a normal part of the aging process for deck boards, but if you have large sections that have turned black this indicates rot and the affected boards will need to be replaced. You can try to restore the color of the wood by sanding the affected boards, but this will only be effective if the rot is localized and the board is not structurally compromised.

If a board is popped up from the deck’s surface, use a hammer and nails to knock it back down into place. You can also line up a new nail near – but not in – the old hole and hammer it down. Be sure to check the deck and replace any popped nails and study all of the hardware to ensure that everything is still secure and properly fastened to the joists, posts and beams.