Decking is a great addition to a garden, allowing you to extend your house into the outdoors on sunny days. But the timber in your decking is outside every day, exposed to all the elements. Hot summer days and wet autumn and winter nights take their toll. In a few years, your decking can become slippery and start to rot.

That’s why it’s important to make sure that timber decking is properly maintained. Regular decking maintenance will extend the life of your decking by several years and keeps it looking fresh and appealing.

The importance of regular maintenance

The first part of decking maintenance is cleaning the timber, which should be done twice a year. Moss, mould and algae are prone to grow on timber decking, while everyday grime caused by grease or dirt can make the wood look dull and unattractive.

Some garden animals and insects also like to feast on rotting wood and you can end up with planks that have come loose or even break. Fixings are particularly vulnerable to this as metal screws can retain water in the wooden grooves.

The first step is to use a stiff brush to get rid of any loose materials on the decking. Next, apply a cleaning product and scrub it into the surface of the timber. Then rinse it off with a garden hose. Make sure that all the residues are washed off thoroughly and leave to dry for at least two days.

Protecting your decking

About once a year, you should apply some form of decking protection to the timber. Ideally, you should do this in the early autumn so that the wood has the maximum protection for the winter months which cause the most damage to timber decking. By doing it after summer, the decking will have completely dried after the wet winter months.

There are three ways of protecting your decking: decking protector, decking stain or decking oil. Each has slightly different qualities – protector is translucent so won’t change the appearance, stain has a definite colour while oils have a more subtle finish to the wood.

How to protect your decking

First clean your decking, as per the instructions above. Next you should strip the decking of any previous stain or varnish, by using a woodstain remover. Lightly sand the surface using fine sandpaper – you can attach sandpaper to a long-handled painting pad if you don’t have a sander. Wipe off any remaining residue and you’re ready to start applying the stain.

Pour the stain into a rolling tray, then dip your roller or brush into the stain. Be careful not to overload the roller – if you have too much then you’ll get patches of darker stain in the decking. You should have enough to only be able to make a few strokes.

After finishing, wipe off any extra stain with a rag and let it dry for at least 24 hours – the longer the better.

The process is similar for both decking protector and decking stain. If you use decking oil, make sure you apply a very thin layer to start with. You want to avoid leaving any pools of oil as these can take a very long time to dry off completely.

Restoring your decking

If you haven’t followed your cleaning and protection regime thoroughly then you do have some options for restoring your decking. After cleaning your decking, but before you add any stain, try using a restorer. This needs to be applied with a stiff brush and can be hard work so do one area at a time.

It needn’t be a major chore to keep your decking looking good. After all, you spend a lot of time and effort on making your plants, trees and lawn look good all the time so protecting the timber decking once a year shouldn’t be too difficult.

By cleaning your decking twice a year, and adding protection once a year, your timber decking will be the envy of your neighbours for years.

For more information about maintaining your garden during the winter, take a look at our Winter Garden Survival Guide – download a copy of it here. You can keep a print out on your fridge to remind you what needs to be done.