How to Maintain Wooden Decking


Wooden decking requires regular maintenance due to being exposed to the elements. It's essential to know how to clean decking and restore it to ensure your timber decking looks its best and you can enjoy it for many years.

Deck maintenance

Washing deckingThe first stage in regular decking maintenance is using a broom to brush away any dead leaves to prevent any build-up of moss and dirt. Be sure to move and brush under any furniture and pots so air can circulate and water drain away.

Keeping your decking boards clean and free from mould will prevent the surface from becoming slippery when wet. Use a power washer annually to remove any grease and dirt for a more thorough clean.

However, if there is any mould, this will need to be treated and cleaned using a multi-purpose decking cleaner before power washing. You will also need to cover or move any plants or furniture to protect them from the cleaning solution before you start cleaning. Test the pressure washer on a small area before you begin to check it doesn't damage the decking. If you're happy with it, spray in the direction of the grain and make sure to distribute the water evenly.

Refinish decking

Suppose you are looking to maintain the appearance of your deck in the garden. In that case, sweep and clean the decking area as and when needed, but ideally annually, and then treat the surfaces every few years. Once you've finished cleaning your decking, the wood will have expanded with water, so let the wood dry thoroughly before proceeding with further steps. It's best to start this project when you expect dry weather for a few days.

sanding deckingFirstly, inspect the area to check if any screws need tightening and fill any gouges. Before sanding the decking, make sure the decking is completely dry, and you're wearing gloves, a dust mask and safety glasses. This PPE is essential to avoid chemicals and debris harming your lungs and eyes. Use earplugs or ear defenders if you're using powered orbital sanders or belt sanders.

Sanding by hand is an excellent way to reach the problematic areas and crevices. The best way to sand a deck is to use coarse 60 grit or medium 80 grit sandpaper, such as Oakey Liberty Green.

Sand decking boards as evenly as possible in the grain's direction to quickly remove the material. If the surface still feels rough and you require a smoother finish, use finer sandpaper until you are satisfied with the finish. Check out our grits reference chart to help you select the correct grit for your project.

Once you have finished sanding the decking, thoroughly vacuum the area and use cloths to remove the remaining dust and be sure to check any crevices.

Deck protection

The final stage of preserving your decking is to protect it with a deck stain or oil. You may need to use a wood brightener before staining if the previous cleaning solution increased the PH balance of the wood and made it appear darker. 

Decking oil penetrates more deeply than a stain to prevent the wood from cracking or warping and is available in natural colours to enhance the appearance of the wood.

A stain may be more appropriate if you want a different colour, and there is a wide selection of coloured stains for decking. However, it simply seals the wood to prevent rot and will not penetrate it. Stains can become slippery when wet, so adequate maintenance is essential to avoid peeling or flaking.

Decking stainWhen applying stain, start with any higher areas, such as a handrail or decking posts if you have a raised deck. If it's all one level, start in a corner and work towards an exit, using a brush to paint the decking. Alternatively, use an applicator pad which will be quicker but challenging to get into cracks.

Whichever method you choose, paint a few boards at a time along the grain to get into the decking grooves and avoid overlap marks. You can then apply a second coat in the same way after the first coat has dried. If you choose to use oil instead, ensure to strip and remove the old oil before using a natural bristle brush to apply the new oil in the same way as the stain.  

It's essential to protect your wood decking with an oil or stain to prevent rot and costly replacements. If you plan to replace any sections of rotten decking, wait for six months before applying any stain or oil to ensure the pre-treatment has entirely eroded.

After refinishing and protecting your decking area, you can include this as part of your garden maintenance routine and sweep away leaves and debris. There are so many small garden decking ideas you can try to complete the look of your outside space. Whether you choose seating areas, fire pits or making pallet furniture, they all help you enjoy some al fresco dining!