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Colorado is no stranger to winter weather. While fresh snowfall is great for gliding down the ski slope, it’s not so nice when it creates a slick surface on your outdoor deck. Snow and ice buildup can be a safety hazard when it accumulates on your deck, railings, stairs, or landings. Even the smallest amount of winter precipitation can turn your favorite outdoor relaxation area into a dangerous ice rink.

Although Colorado winters can pack quite the punch, that doesn’t mean your outdoor living spaces need to be the skating rink. What can you do to keep your deck a safe place during this chilly time of year? Let’s explore some ways to winterize your deck and railing system.

Make Needed Repairs

Small problems turn into big (and expensive) issues when not addressed in a timely manner. Snow is heavy and puts increased weight on your deck and railings. If your deck system is in poor condition, the winter weather won’t do it any favors. Make a goal to thoroughly check over your decking system on a regular basis for signs of wear and tear that can be fixed.

Check for Pests

Insect infestations will take down a deck in no time, particularly a wood deck. Pests such as carpenter ants, termites, or mice will break down wood, eat away at it, and even burrow through it. So while a wood deck might appear in good shape on the outside, the inside can be hollowed out. If pests have invaded your deck or rails, your deck may not be strong enough to bear the weight of both snow accumulation combined with human use. If you see signs of pests, it’s best to address them quickly.

Inspect Boards

Whether a piece of the deck flooring or part of the railing system, split or cracked boards are asking for trouble. They lose their strength with every crack, and it’s impossible to determine when one more split will be the final crack that breaks a board entirely. Consider replacing boards that are cracking, warping, or splitting to maintain the integrity of your deck.

Clean Up Debris

The cleaner your deck, the better. Dirt and leaves turn into a mushy mess when mixed with rain or snow. Then that pile continues to hold moisture against your decking material, and prolonged moisture exposure is a surefire path to deck damage. Take the time to remove all those fallen leaves and keep your deck clear of debris.

Look for Deterioration

Decay, rot, and rust are bad news for a deck or railing system. For example, let’s say you encounter an icy spot on your deck and reach for a rail to catch yourself from falling. The force of the fall will put significant pressure on the rail as you clutch to it for dear life.

If you have a metal railing system that is severely rusted, there is a chance it will not hold up under that pressure and break. As you come crashing down together with your railing, you could be seriously injured, all due to rust damage.

The same scenario could play out with a wood deck handrail, too. Wet rot could compromise the durability of the rail, making it lack the proper strength to withstand a hard impact. Handrails are there to protect you and your guests. Check them regularly to make sure they are sturdy enough to do so.

Plan Ahead for Winter

Of all the different kinds of decking materials, wood is one particular type that requires regular upkeep to maintain the integrity of the material. Raw wood is susceptible to mold, mildew, and fungal overgrowth, plus sun and pest damage. When you apply a protective layer of stain, paint, or sealant, you prolong the life of your wood deck and rails.

Furthermore, you create a water-resistant barrier that is perfect for Colorado’s wet winters. Without a coat of stain, paint, or sealant, your wood can begin to warp, sag, split, rot, crack, or even collapse altogether.

But remember, the cold winter months are not the ideal time of year to apply a layer of stain to your wood deck or rails. Rather, you need to utilize the warmer temperatures leading up to winter to ensure your stain dries properly.

Buy a Plastic Shovel

It is important to remove snow and ice buildup from your deck throughout the winter. Beware that a metal-tipped shovel can do more harm than good, so a gentle clean-off with a plastic shovel is the best way to go.

Also, you might be tempted to use some sort of deicing salt. Once again, it’s a snow removal method that can cause more harm than help. While salt is great for roadways, it’s not the best substance to put on decking materials.

Preparing Your Deck for the Winter

Harsh winters exacerbate the problems of already-deteriorated decking materials. A safe deck begins with a well-maintained deck. When you take care of your deck all year long, your deck and rails are in the best position to be strong and sturdy during a Colorado winter.