Cleaning Outdoor Wood and Composite Decking & Homeowner Phone Calls
Cleaning Outdoor Wood and Composite Decking
DEAR TIM: Every year, I’ve got some wood or composite decking to clean outside. This year I need to clean and reseal a ramp that leads up into my outdoor shed. I've also seen all sorts of conflicting information out on the Internet about the best way to clean wood. Many say to use a pressure washer. What do you feel is the best way and why? What do you feel is the best sealer and how long can I expect one to last? Wendy B., Bangor, ME
You may have a similar spring routine at your home. I know I do. I have a boat dock that has cedar panels and a large set of treated lumber steps leading from the shore to the dock. I also have a treated-plywood ramp that allows me to get my motorcycle and snowblowers in and out of my shed with ease. All of this wood requires periodic cleaning and sealing so the wood isn’t ruined by Mother Nature.
Is There Bad Advice on the Internet?
Yes, there's lots of bad home improvement advice on the Internet.
The Internet is a wonderful thing, but one of the downsides is that it gives everyone a voice. While that may seem like a great thing, it often makes it harder for you to separate the wheat from the chaff. Each day, I battle fancy websites created by people who’ve never worked a day in a paying customer’s home, yet the website owner thinks he’s an authority on all things having to do with home improvement.
Can Pressure Washers Damage Wood?
Yes, pressure washers and power washers can damage the wood fibers in decking, fencing, and house siding and trim.
Here’s a fact about pressure washers and wood. Pressure washers can be highly destructive, even in the hands of a paid professional. The intense stream of water forced from the nozzle of the wand is measured in thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch.
Can the High Pressure Erode Soft Wood?
This forceful blast has no trouble at all eroding the soft lighter-colored wood fibers in between the darker bands of the wood grain. The light wood is called springwood as it’s what grows in the spring. The darker bands of wood are summerwood. These are far denser and grow in the second half of the season before fall arrives.
What is the Best Wood Cleaner?
The best and safest wood cleaner is certified organic oxygen bleach.
I prefer to clean all my outside wood with a solution of oxygen bleach and water. This chemical is safe for all vegetation around the wood, it doesn’t take out the natural color of the wood and it removes old sun-damaged wood sealers with ease. I apply it to dry dirty wood and composite decking, let it sit for 15 minutes, scrub with a brush, and then rinse with a garden hose.
Should Chlorine Bleach Be Used to Clean Wood?
Do NOT use chlorine bleach to clean wood. The chemical name for chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite. It’s very toxic to vegetation, it turns wood white, and it’s corrosive to any metal fasteners or structural connectors.
What is the Best Wood Sealer?
The best wood sealer is one that penetrates into the wood and doesn't form a film on the surface.
I’ve had the best luck with penetrating wood sealers. These soak into the wood grain once the wood is clean and dry. Many popular exterior wood sealers are similar to paint. They form a protective film on top of the wood. The trouble with film formers is when they fail, they peel like paint. If you don’t get all the film off, you can end up with a blotchy finish when you apply the new sealer as the sheen may be different where it’s bare wood vs. where the new sealer covers the film you weren’t able to remove.
Be sure to read the label on the can of sealer. Follow the directions to the letter making sure you pay attention to the temperature ranges. It’s best to apply the new sealer on overcast days or in the shade. Working in direct sunlight can cause rapid drying which will lead to overlap marks where you failed to apply the sealer fast enough.
Homeowner Phone Calls
Last week, I announced I’d be calling homeowners for free to help them with concerns during the COVID pandemic. Here are a few of the calls I made. You can listen to the entire phone call if you just go to the following URLS. You’ll also see photographs of the problems and sometimes products I feel that will solve the problem.
If you want me to call you, then go here: Tim Carter Calls You
Jan’s Leaking Patio Enclosure Roof
I called Jan about her patio roof enclosure. It recently started leaking and it’s ruining a couch. I offered her two possible solutions. If the first one works, it will save her about $3,000.00. Go here: Leaking Patio Enclosure Roof
Eric’s New Attic Floor Storage Area
Eric wanted me to call him because he’s tired of paying fees to remote storage locker businesses. He has attic space that he can use, but an electrician laid cables on top of the attic joists. I offered up two clever solutions: How to Install Floor in Attic
Bill’s New Basement Bathroom Rough In
I’ve been a master plumber since age 29. This allowed me to share with Bill some great tips so he could rough in a new basement bathroom. Fortunately, there are pipes already in place, he just has to move the primary building drain 15 feet to plumb for the new bathroom. Go here for tips: Rough In Basement Bathroom