Making Your Plastic Deck Safe During The Winter
Tighten any loose fasteners, and pound in any nails that have popped up. Replace corroded or rusted fasteners. Decking and stairs should appear even without sagging, neither swaying nor moving when tested. Railings, banisters and handrails should be firmly held in place. You can test these by pushing on them, ensuring there is no give. To prevent small children and pets from squeezing through, keep rails no more than four inches apart (measured from the inside of the rails). Building codes recommend railings that are 36 to 42 inches in height. Make sure that risers and stringers on stairs are securely attached and not decayed.
Be sure all lighting works. Clean light covers to maximize lighting and trim any plants or tree limbs that block your lights.
Remove any planters, patio furniture and grills
Move these into your garage, shed or beneath your deck if possible. Moisture can pool under planters that are left on your deck through the winter. This not only leads to mold and mildew growth, but unsightly stains on the decking material.
Clean your deck
A clean deck allows more air circulation between boards, making your deck more resilient against rain and snow. Start by sweeping away leaves, dirt and debris since their decomposition damages decking material. Wash your deck with a hose and scrub-broom, freeing decay matter from deck fibers. Avoid power washing which may damage your deck and void the warranty. Remove food stains and other spills with warm, soapy water and a stiff-bristle brush. Use oxalic acid for tannin stains left by leaves and organic debris but be sure to check with your deck manufacturer first.
Eliminate Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew attack the wood and plastic in composite decks, making it the biggest threat to composite decking’s appearance. While many homeowners’ successfully combat mold and mildew with sodium hypochlorite, you should check your deck manufacturer’s recommendations first.
Standing water encourages mold and attracts mosquitoes, flies and gnats. A good drainage system underneath your deck includes splash guards and downspouts that direct water to another area of your yard. If you notice areas on or around your deck where water is allowed to collect, add or replace flashing.
To cover or not to cover, that is the question
A durable plastic tarp or insulation will protect your deck from winter’s harsh elements. But with a cold roof, you’ll need to ensure plenty of ventilation beneath the tarp. Airflow is needed to evaporate the rising damp air condensing on the underside of the plastic. Plastic tarps are not only ugly; they’re prohibited in many subdivisions and not watertight anyway. Water can still pool on it, leading to mold and mildew. For this reason, we recommend not covering your deck and removing snow from it instead.
Be careful when removing snow
While composite decking is tough, hard rakes, shovels and hoes can damage composite material, leaving dents and scratches on your new deck. It’s best to clear snow with a broom or plastic shovel, running the shovel across decking boards lengthwise.
Guard your deck from the grill
A guard mat underneath your grill will protect your deck from scrapes and scratches and prevent burns and stains from hot coals and grease.
With a little bit of effort, you can keep your deck safe this winter, prevent permanent damage and avoid many maintenance issues next spring.