3 Things To Do When Maintaining Your Hardwood Deck

So you just got a new hardwood deck, and you’re loving being able to go out back and relax on it after a long day’s work.  But you start to notice over time that the wonderful golden chocolate color of the hardwood you fell in love with at the lumber yard is starting to fade to gray.  You don’t know how to feel about the color and want to know what you can do to bring back that beautiful color you enjoy so much.  Well, fret not my friend, because we have 3 things you should do in order to maintain your hardwood deck (Ipe, Garapa, etc.).

Nature of Wood

Despite hardwoods being a dense material, it’s still wood, and anytime wood is exposed to the elements, it’s going to have fading, dirt, etc., which means you’re going to need to implement routine maintenance.  Maintenance is important for, not just aesthetics, but for the longevity of your deck as well.  Ipe specifically can last a lifetime, but only if you take good care of your deck.  The lifespan of Ipe can be between 40-70 years depending on how well you take care of it.

Why Wood Fades

Weathering of wood is a natural process. The cause of weathering is a combination of chemical, mechanical, biological and sunlight-induced changes, all of which occur simultaneously and affect each other.  One of the results of weathering is fading. As air moves over the surface of the deck, pollen, dust, dirt, etc. will replace the colored cells of the wood. This transformation is also caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.  That’s why, if part of your hardwood deck is covered by say a patio cover or pergola, it’s not going to fade as fast as the part of your deck that’s exposed to the sun.  Some people like the nice gray color their hardwood fades out to, and many tend to keep it. But if you’re not one of those people, thankfully, that graying is just surface level.

Here are our 3 tips for routine hardwood deck maintenance to help bring out that original color and extend the lifespan of your deck.

1. Cleaning your deck

As with any deck, you should sweep at least once a week.  Any debris left on for extended periods of time can cause water buildup and can stain.

For routine cleaning, remove any furniture (yes, including the grill) off the deck.  In order to clean properly, you’ll need a couple of things:

  • a bucket of warm and soapy water
  • a stiff bristle brush (non-metallic)

With a little elbow grease, these will clean off most surface residues such as pollen, dust, dirt, grime, etc.  Any leaves or other debris can be swept off or blown off with a leaf blower prior to scrubbing.  Once fully scrubbed, you’ll be down to the surface of your deck.  If you’ve allowed your deck to fade out to a silvery color, you’re done!  We recommend somewhat routine cleaning, and again, sweeping once or twice a week.

The next two steps should be done annually (every 9-18 months) if you’re looking to keep that rich original color.

2. Sanding your deck

To prep your decking for the application of Ipe Oil, it’s a good idea to sand your deck. You’ll need a couple of things for this step as well:

  • 80 Grit Sand Paper
  • Orbital Sander
  • Pressure Washer

When Sanding, it’s important to remember to sand with the grain.  Sanding against the grain tears the wood fibers so any scratches will show up much more, especially after being stained with oil.

To prevent over-sanding and creating an uneven surface, do not let the sander sit on top of the wood for too long.  Glide the sander gently, providing even pressure, over the surface of the deck. Over-sanding wood in an area can cause boards to warp later on down the road.

After you’re done sanding, it’s good to sweep the deck, then pressure wash the entire surface of the deck to make sure the pores of the wood are not stopped-up with sawdust.

After you’ve done all of this, your deck is ready to be oiled!

3. Apply oil to your deck

There are a few things you’re going to need when you’re ready to apply oil to your hardwood deck:

  • ⅜” Nap Roller and/or Paint Brush
  • Rag
  • Paint Tray
  • Oil of your choice

Place the oil in the paint tray and coat the roller or brush.  Use the roller to evenly apply one coat of oil to your deck.  You’re going to want to wait 30-45 minutes to let the oil set.  Once that’s done, wipe off any excess oil, and that’s it!  Your deck should be good as new!

A Note on Tannin Stains

You may also notice another strange kind of discoloration on your hardwood deck.  If any welding was done around the deck or anything else that may have cause bits of metal to go flying around, this can cause what’s known as a tannin stain, an unsightly blue-black or gray discoloration, which can occur on nearly all woods.  Wood contains tannin. The discoloration is caused by a chemical reaction between the tannin in the wood and metal products, such as nails, screws, and other fasteners.  When moisture, caused by morning dew, rain, etc., lands on the surface of the deck, this enables the tannin and metal to meet, causing staining.

If you notice your deck having tannin stains, this can be easily remedied using a deck brightener product prior to applying oil to your deck.  Now, you’re going to want to make sure your deck brightener contains oxalic acid, such as Thomson’s WaterSeal Deck Cleaner & Brightener.  Oxalic acid removes these stains and will give your deck a brighter look.  Be sure to follow the directions on your deck brightener’s packaging, neutralize the acid with water, and wait a few days before applying oil. Be safe when using oxalic acid, and be sure to wear a mask.

Closing Remarks

When you desire a true natural wood look, hardwoods are a fantastic option when considering building your custom deck.  If you take good care of your hardwood deck, your deck will last as long as your home.  Not only that, but hardwoods are a great investment.  Because they are highly sought after, your hardwood deck will increase the value of your home in the eyes of prospective buyers.

As builders and craftsmen of custom decks, we’re pros when it comes to building with hardwoods, and we want to equip you with resources for how to take care of your new custom deck.  So if you’re looking to get started on a magnificent custom hardwood deck project for your outdoor living space in the Austin, Texas area, request a free consultation, or call us at (512) 522-DECK (3325).


Caleb Wheeler

Austin Custom Deck Builder - Centex Decks

Owner and Master-carpenter Caleb Wheeler grew up on a large ranch, building barns, mending fences, and tending to the building needs of the family herd. He apprenticed a Master-carpenter from England, and worked with many other mentors to learn the art of fine craftsmanship in furniture building and now takes that knowledge and approach to crafting his company, his team, his custom decks, and outdoor living projects for his customers.

As a creative small-business entrepreneur with a passion for what he does, Caleb has built Centex Decks LLC into a company that delivers a beautiful product with the project management skills of a builder and with the fine detail and craftsmanship of a furniture maker.

“When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back, because, details matter.” — Steve Jobs

Every custom deck design + build project comes with our expert artisan craftsmanship.

We specialize in projects that are highly complex and need the expertise, planning, and execution from a company with 19+ years of residential and commercial construction management background. Let us be your custom deck builder.

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