While we’ve been enjoying a mild fall, winter looms just around the corner. Weather experts have confirmed La Niña will be affecting our weather, and while the South is expected to be warmer and drier than usual, it’s still best to be prepared in case the forecasts are wrong.
Thoughts of winter snow bring up the question of how best to help your deck survive the winter.
Here’s our best advice on how to make sure you don’t need to spend a bunch of money next spring making repairs to your deck.
The best thing you can do to help your deck weather the winter snow is to ensure it has a good sealant. If you haven’t treated your deck this fall, you still have time if you catch a nice warm day with no rain in the forecast. Make sure you choose the best product for your type of deck and follow the label instructions on application.
You also can benefit your deck by moving pots, containers and storage boxes off the deck for the winter so moisture doesn’t get trapped underneath them. This also allows you to make sure those areas are treated well.
Also, check decking screws and tighten or replace any that are sticking above the surface of the wood. Now’s a good time to replace any damaged screws as well to ensure your deck is solid and safe.
Lastly, make sure your deck stays free of debris such as leaves and small sticks before the snow begins, as these trap moisture and make clearing snow more difficult.
When the Snow Flies
The first question really is “Do I have to clear snow from my deck?” The best answer, unfortunately, is “Depends.” If your deck is unused in the winter, there’s no real need to clear the snow if you’ve applied the proper treatment in advance.
Snow will not really create more moisture than your sealant can handle if it’s left to melt and disappear naturally. As far as the concern about the weight of the snow harming your deck; unless your deck is covered by more than 3 feet of snow (approximately the height of the railing), the weight should be no problem. Decks are built to withstand a good deal of weight in furniture and humans, so snow weight will not be a problem.
If your deck gets a good deal of traffic in the winter, i.e., it’s the shortest route to your detached garage, then for safety’s sake it’s best to clear the snow, or at least make a path.
Clearing the Deck
Here’s our expert advice on the best ways to clear snow from your deck, if you must:
• Avoid shoveling snow off your deck with a metal shovel. A metal shovel is more likely to scratch and gouge your deck, damaging the sealant and allowing moisture to get inside of the wood. If you must shovel, use a plastic or rubber shovel, both of which are lighter anyway. If you must use a metal shovel, don’t shovel all the way to the deck; leave a 1-inch layer of snow you can clean off with a broom.
• Speaking of brooms, that’s the best way to clear snow off your deck if it’s not too deep. Snow of 4 inches or less can easily be swept away, and you can push the snow between the railings, saving your back the risk of lifting snow over the railing.
• When you do shovel, push the snow parallel to the decking boards. You’re much more likely to gouge or damage boards when you shovel perpendicular to the boards.
Dealing with Ice
If ice has accumulated on your deck and you need to remove it for safety:
• First, don’t try to chip off the ice. Even if you use a plastic ice scraper or shovel, you can damage your deck by chipping at ice.
• Use a “pet friendly” snow melt to thaw the ice. These types of chemicals will do the least damage to your deck. However, they should be swept off the deck as soon as the ice has disappeared as salt and chemicals can damage your deck’s hardware.
• Don’t use sand as a substitute for an ice melt. Any type of abrasive material will damage the finish on your deck.
Be Careful Out There
Whatever kinds of winter care you need to be doing on your deck, remember it’s just a deck and can be repaired. Make sure you are taking care of yourself first:
• Don’t overexert. Shoveling snow is one of those ways we often overexert ourselves in the winter, injuring backs, shoulders or even causing a heart attack.
• Stay warm. Dress in layers so you can peel off pieces as you warm up to the work, but don’t leave skin exposed and risk frost bite.
• Tread carefully. Stay near walls or railings if you’re dealing with an icy deck to avoid falls.
Spring Will Arrive
Remember, you’re taking all these precautions with your deck so that when spring arrives, you’ll be able to return to the deck and enjoy the nice weather with your family and friends.
Check your deck in the spring for any damage that may have occurred over the winter. Or, better yet, give us a call and let our experts inspect your deck. We can quickly schedule any repairs that might need to be made to ensure your safety while you are enjoying your time outdoors.