Decks are incredibly enjoyable in the spring and summer, as they allow you to take advantage of the warm weather and sunshine to eat, entertain and just relax outdoors. Furthermore, decks add aesthetic appeal as well as property value to your home, which makes them incredibly important for many homeowners who want to take pride in the way their house looks. However, though cold weather usually drives people indoors and away from decks in the fall, you must still maintain your deck throughout the winter. You need to understand what can damage a deck during colder months so you know how to treat it properly. That way, when the snow melts and your deck becomes useful again in the spring, you can take full advantage of it instead of worrying about how the winter affected your outdoor space. Here are a few tips to keep in mind about snow shoveling safely and your wood deck.
Watch How You Clear Snow
Many people believe that in order to protect their wood deck, they should clear snow away from it regularly. However, this is actually not the case. Installers build decks to withstand more weight than most roofs, and the odds of snow or ice damaging the wood underneath are slim. However, if you try to clear an exit path from your house or get to something in your backyard, shoveling snow away from your deck is probably a good idea.
Watch for Objects and Nails
If you decide to do shovel snow, watch the way you clear snow so that your deck comes through in one piece. Though it may seem tempting to just get all the snow out of the way as quickly as quickly as possible, in many cases you can end up damaging your deck if you are not careful. To start, make sure no nails, screws or large objects protrude from the floor before the first snows fall and stay a while. You may trip over or get caught on these raised nails once you can no longer see them beneath a blanket of snow.
Using a Broom or Blower
If you have less than 4 inches of snow, you can use a broom or a blower to clear it off of your deck which is fast and easy solution that avoids many of the challenges that come with shoveling snow. However, if a lot of snow accumulates and you do need to shovel, make sure to use a plastic implement. Metal shovels damage the wood when they scrape the floor of your deck, especially when it comes to soft woods like cedar or redwood.
Shoveling Parallel to the Deck Boards
Make sure that you shovel parallel to the deck boards, not directly against or perpendicular to them. This minimizes gouging and scratching from the shovel, which is incredibly important if you want your wood deck to come out looking acceptable when the winter thaws. Finally, avoid chopping ice on your deck, and instead try melting it by using an ice removal product that is specially made for the type of deck you have.
Think Carefully Before Using Salt
One such ice removal product is simple salt, which lowers the freezing temperature of water and thus allows it to melt at lower temperatures than it normally would. However, there are several different types of salts that clear snow and ice, and it is crucial to know which salts may harm your wood deck and which will not.
What About Rock Salt?
The first type of salt is rock salt, also known as sodium chloride, which is commonly used in cooking and is the salt which most people are familiar. Though it is easily available in stores, rock salt also damages the immediate environment and corrodes your wood deck. Rock salt sucks the natural moisture out of wood and speeds up the corrosion process by interfering with the wood’s natural ability to expand and contract. Furthermore, runoff from snowmelt with rock salt in it is damaging to streams and rivers and can harm organisms living there. Calcium chloride, another type of salt, also damages wood and wildlife. Instead, you should use potassium chloride or magnesium chloride, both of which are safer for your deck and don’t harm plants as much as rock salt and calcium chloride do. However, the only catch is that potassium chloride typically melts snow only when it is above 15 degrees Fahrenheit, so it may not be effective if you live in a much colder climate.
Do Not Put Sand on Your Deck
Imagine a giant sheet of sandpaper scraping away at your lovely wood deck! Though it might be tempting to melt snow this way, avoid using sand at all during the winter. Otherwise, you may need to repair or refinish your deck once the snow melts in the spring.
Clearing your deck is often inevitable to get safely in and out of the house on the snowiest days of winter. But spring is right around the corner so remember to take good care of your deck so you can enjoy it when the warm weather returns.
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