In this post, we break down the maintenance and cleaning distinctions between traditional wood and composite decking material, covering seasonal maintenance best practices.
We’re all familiar with the traditional wood deck. But just because wood is a common building material for outdoor living spaces doesn’t mean it’s the best. For the traditional wood deck, year-round exposure to the elements — especially vast amounts of sun, rain, snow, and ice — can wreak havoc on the look and performance of the wood board. Wood decks require routine maintenance including staining, power-washing, and even the hassle of replacement. For the homeowner, the expenses begin to stack up.
For the owner of a capped polymer or capped composite deck, seasonal “wear and tear” hardly applies. Capped polymer decking is made of cellular PVC, and capped composite decking boasts a blend of wood particles and high-performance additives; both kinds of decking maintain structural integrity thanks to robust polymer bonds, meaning owners won’t have to worry about warping, bleaching, and other unsightly signs of erosion.
In particular, capped composite decking can make for a durable outdoor living space at an accessible price point. That said, decks made from any and all materials will still need a little TLC to stay healthy long-term. Read on to learn the best practices and products for caring for different decks in spring, summer, fall and winter.
Owners of natural wood decks know that the spring means they must be on the lookout for mold, mildew, and other signs of weathering that may have crept in over the cold winter months. Those whose decks are made of composite decking material or capped polymer boards will not have to deal with the warping, rotting, nor discoloration of their wood deck-owning neighbors, because composite and polymer constructions resist erosion. Still, a clean deck is always more inviting, so we’ve broken down the best products and techniques to spruce up your outdoor space as the snow melts.
Products to Use & Best Practices
- Wood-suitable deck cleaner. Clean the deck using a wood cleaning product, then apply a sealer, toner, or stain to protect the wood and freshen its appearance.
- Note that most wood deck stains emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air as they evaporate. Composite deck material and capped polymer decking don’t require such stains – just another reason why they’re much better for the environment (and your wallet).
Wood Composite* Decks
- Brush: Quickie Deck Scrub Brush or any medium plastic bristle deck brush.
- Cleaner: All-purpose TimberTech DeckCleaner™ battles surface build-up.
- Do not use a natural fiber deck brush on capped composite decking material, as these can dull the surface.
- For general cleaning, use a dilution of mild liquid soap and water. For more difficult to remove dirt, mud, clay, or surface contamination, use all-purpose TimberTech DeckCleaner.
*Note that composite deck cleaners such as Corte Clean, Thompson’s Water Seal—Oxy Action, Olympic Deck Cleaner, or other cleaners specified as composite deck cleaners, in powder or liquid form, should not be used with TimberTech PRO® line. The TimberTech PRO collections feature deck boards made from a capped composite material; the cap of these products is not composed of a wood/plastic composite.
As the weather gets warm and dry in the summer, this is the best time to give your deck an annual inspection. For both wood decks and those made of composite decking material, if you find any areas that need to be repaired, now is the time to do it — before the cold and seasonal precipitation hit.
- Look for rot.
- Include the stairs in your scan for mold and mildew.
- Take a good look at the deck’s ledger (the piece of the framing attached to your house.) Look for signs of rot and scan for rust on the joist hangers. If your deck has a wood substructure — whether it’s a wood deck or composite deck — you can extend the life of the substructure by preventing moisture penetration with TimberTech PRO-Tac Flashing and Joist Tape.
Capped Composite Decks
- Sweep any leaves or debris to showcase your premium deck.
- Rinse dirt, mud, or spills — no need to power-wash.
Wood & Capped Composite Decks
- Make sure your deck has at least 6-inches of unobstructed airflow below so moisture can’t as readily collect.
- Use woven rugs and mats free of rubber backing, which can trap moisture.
- Clear any buildup from between boards.
The cooler temperatures of fall are ideal for performing preventative maintenance on your deck so that come next spring, you’ll have as minimal work as possible to get your deck ready to go. If you haven’t had a chance to do so in the spring, this is also the time to wash and seal your deck, if it’s made from wood. For composite decking material, you should use TimberTech DeckCleaner (see the chart under “Spring”).
- Trim any surrounding bushes or shrubs so they’re at least a foot away from the side of your deck. This will help reduce mold, moss, and rot from developing over the winter.
- Keep your deck clear of falling leaves so they don’t discolor your deck.
- Keep your gutters clear so water doesn’t gather and spill over onto your deck.
- Relocate any planters and clean away the dirt that’s left behind. Do the same for your outdoor furniture; this will help prevent discoloring.
If you live in a cold climate, winters can mean snow and ice. Winters are the nemesis of wood decks, as the accumulated moisture and freezing temperatures contribute to warping, discoloration, and other weathering effects for traditional wood decks.
However, TimberTech decks constructed from composite decking material are made to outlast regular wood decks thanks to protective capping and a performance additive-rich core made with up to 80% recycled materials. For a more in-depth look on how to pair cold-weather care with your outdoor escape crafted from composite decking material, check out our winter-weather guide to preserving your TimberTech deck.
Wood & Capped Composite Decks
- Move outdoor furniture inside to a secure, covered place, such as the garage or within an outdoor shed.
- If you have soft accessories like pillows or rugs, store those inside so pests and rodents don’t make their homes there in the colder months. This allows for ready-to-use outdoor furniture once warmer weather returns.
As you can see, wood decks require considerably more time, maintenance and cost than do outdoor escapes made from composite decking material. For more extensive information about keeping your composite deck as healthy as possible, check out the TimberTech Care & Cleaning Guidelines.