Take steps now to preserve your deck for the future

If you live in a region that’s prone to icy weather and freezing temperatures, it’s important to protect your deck and railings during the winter months. Whether it’s a relaxing front porch or a backyard oasis, homeowners can take these steps to winterize their outdoor spaces so they can enjoy them in the spring, summer and fall—and for years to come.

Store Your Furniture and Plants

Remove any and all furniture and potted plants from your deck’s surface. If you have space, move everything indoors to a garage, basement or attic. If you don’t have the space inside, consider purchasing a shed or container for your yard. If you need to store them outside in the open, organize all of the furniture and plants in an area of your deck that may be the least impacted by cold wind and moisture, and cover them with a weatherproof tarp.

Tip: You may also be able to store your furniture with a weatherproof tarp under the deck for extra coverage from snow and ice.

Sweep Your Deck

Remove leaves, dirt and debris that may have built up throughout the fall months around your railings and from your deck. Sweep them off with a soft-bristled broom to prevent scratching the surface of your deck. It’s important to remove any loose particles from the deck and railings before cleaning it.

Clean Your Deck’s Surface and Railings

After you’ve swept your deck of loose debris, you may find stains, mold, mildew, bird droppings and more that need to be removed. For composite decking, DuraLife Decking suggests cleaning your deck with warm water and a non-bleach dish soap to get rid of these substances. A regular kitchen sponge should work just fine to remove them, but if stains persist, like grease stains, try using alcohol wipes.

To clean your railings, use a non-abrasive sponge or cloth, warm water and a simple detergent. For more difficult stains or scuffs, try Simple Green, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, vinegar, or Collinite 920 Fiberglass Boat Cleaner. Always rinse thoroughly after washing your railings to prevent any build-up.

“With RDI railing products, you shouldn’t need to use a pressure washer,” Product Manager Mike DeSalle said. “These low maintenance railings should only require some soapy water and rinse pressure from a garden hose to clean them. The higher PSI from a pressure washer could chip or crack the vinyl clad railing systems.”

Inspect Your Deck and Railings

Once your deck and railings are clean, it’s time to inspect them for any damage that may have already occurred. This could include loose boards, chipping, and more. Replace broken or loose deck boards before snow or ice have the chance to damage them further.

If a powder-coated aluminum or steel railing is scratched, try using RDI touch up paint, available in either an aerosol can or bottle brush. The Dupli-Color Scratch Seal™ Clear Sealer Pen may also work well for small marks on vinyl railing. For rust on your cable railing, try using the E-Z Clean Cleaner & Protectant. Simply coat the area with the solution and then wipe away the rust.

FYI: RDI railing goes through weatherization testing and won’t discolor, rot or rust. For even more help in preserving your railing year-round, read our guide to care and maintenance.

Use Proper Snow and Ice Removal Techniques

When it’s time to rid your deck and railings of snow and ice, prevent further damage with the right removal techniques. First, use a plastic shovel instead of a metal one. Next, shovel in the direction of the grain of the wood to ensure the shovel doesn’t get caught on the side of the deck boards or leave any gouges in the deck. Try not to chip at ice either—this could scratch or leave marks on the surface of the deck.

“If a support foot or base trim is in place you may want to dig around each of these by hand to avoid damage to the railings when brushing snow off of the deck surface with a shovel or push broom,” DeSalle said. “If you are in an area that gets high snowfall totals, you may be able to install your railing with more than a 2-inch bottom space. Some of our railing systems will allow for up to 4 inches of space. These are popular in New England and mountain regions. Consult your local code enforcement for the allowable space from the deck surface to the bottom rail.”

If you need to use salt to melt ice, use rock salt or a calcium-chloride based product. Some products may not be safe to use on your deck, so aim for brands that are labeled safe for concrete, flagstone, or children and pets. Whatever you do, don’t leave salt in contact with the deck or railings for an extended period of time. After the ice has melted, consider cleaning the deck and railings again with warm water and soap to remove any leftover salt residue.

With the proper winter maintenance, your deck and railings will be ready for outdoor activities in the spring, summer and fall. Follow these steps now and in the future to ensure you can enjoy your outdoor spaces for many years to come.