Decks are a wonderful way to extend your living space. Whether you want a place to host large gatherings or a quiet area to capture some alone time, a deck is a valuable addition to any home.
Decks are not nearly as enjoyable if they are not maintained, though. Cracked, warped wood leads to splinters. Broken boards or railings are dangerous. The buildup of mildew and mold creates a slippery surface, turning your deck into a fall hazard. Caring for your deck is a necessity to preserve its integrity, strength, and durability.
The type of maintenance and the amount of upkeep depends on the kind of decking material. A composite deck is an entirely different decking surface than a deck made of domestic softwood or exotic hardwood, and therefore, requires specific attention and care.
When it comes to composite decking, it is important for homeowners to be educated and informed about the specific guidelines recommended for this type of material.
What is Composite Decking?
Composite decking is made of a unique blend of artificial and natural materials. For example, let’s look at one of the top manufacturers of composite decks – Trex.
Trex composite decking is made of a combination of reclaimed wood and recycled plastic film. In fact, the Trex website states: “As one of the largest plastic film recyclers in the U.S., Trex recycling saves 1 billion+ pounds of plastic film and reclaimed wood from landfills each year.”
Composite Decking Compared to Natural Wood
Composite decking is considered a synthetic decking product. A traditional wood deck is made of natural wood products. For years, homeowners have built decks using different kinds of domestic softwoods. Cedar wood or redwood are amongst the most popular wood choices.
When building a deck with natural wood, homeowners should stain or paint their deck on a regular basis. The stain protects the raw wood from deterioration, rot, water damage, insect infestations, discoloration, and sun exposure.
Moreover, a coat of stain helps the natural wood from accumulating mold, moss, mildew, fungus, or algae. Such growth breaks down the wood and can ruin your wood deck over time. Not to mention, these are slippery substances!
A deck made of raw wood will last significantly longer with a protective stain, but a coat of stain only lasts so long. It must be reapplied every year or two for homeowners to see the full benefits.
Maintaining a Composite Deck
As a synthetic deck product, composite decks do not require a coat of stain, paint, or sealant. This extra maintenance step is not needed or suggested.
So, how do you protect a composite deck? What can you do to ensure your deck does not become a breeding ground for mold, mildew, moss, algae, or fungus?
Let’s use Trex wood decking as an example again. While it may seem like a simple recommendation, clearing your Trex deck of debris is the first step to safeguarding this type of material.
Mold loves to feed on fallen leaves, dirt, mud, dust, and even pollen. When you allow dirt and debris to remain on the surface of your composite deck, you give mold a food source to flourish.
A regular cleaning of your composite deck gives you the best chance at keeping your deck from becoming a slippery rink of slimy substances, but take note of a key term here – regular.
When you proactively care for your deck, you avoid the need to get down on your hands and knees with a scrub brush. Surface debris that has not baked in the summer sun for days can easily be removed with a simple rinse from the hose. The longer dirt sits around, the more time it has to turn into a problem.
If you end up needing a more powerful solution, you can power wash your Trex deck if your pressure washer is on a lower setting. No more than 3100 psi is recommended. And giving it a high pressure wash will void your warranty as well.
If all else fails and you do find mildewy yuckiness starting to form, it could be necessary to whip out that dreaded scrub brush. Scrubbing with warm water and soap (not bleach or acid) with a soft bristled brush should do the trick, but don’t forget to rinse off the entire deck afterward. A thorough rinse is an absolute must.
What about debris during the winter months? Remember to use a plastic shovel to scrape away snow or ice. Do not use a metal one. If you want to melt away snow or ice, using calcium chloride or rock salt is acceptable.
One more suggestion for composite decks is to be cautious of using mats to cover up slimy areas. In particular, rubber-backed mats may contain certain chemicals that are known to discolor the decking boards.
Ready for a Slime-Free Deck?
While slime is great for science projects and sci-fi TV shows, it has no place in your happy place. Keeping a deck clean takes work, but with consistent effort, your deck can be free of mold and mildew. And, you can continue to enjoy your outdoor space.