All across America, decks are an integral part of summer life. They are an extension of our home and can be just as much a reflection of us and our personality as our home itself. However, after a few years of barbeques and sun-bathing, our patios and decks begin to show a few signs of wear and tear. 

One of the most common problems that you face with your outdoor daybeds is with its wood. Over time, the wood starts to fade away due to weather conditions affecting the quality of your furniture. Fortunately, most of these are not difficult to remedy! The most important thing you can do to return and maintain the original luster of your deck is to clean it regularly. This is not quite as simple as mopping a floor but compared to letting your deck go and thus subjecting yourself to massive amounts of work later, it is by far the preferable option.

To effectively clean your deck, you will need three basic ingredients. Start with three quarts of water and mix in one quart of bleach, then add 4 ounces of tri-sodium phosphate ( Ideally, you will have access to a sprayer that can apply this solution to your deck; but if not, just mix the ingredients in a bucket and dump out a small amount at a time. As you are spraying or dumping the solution on your deck, have a coarse, durable brush that you can use for scrubbing the wood. 

You will need to get as deep as you can into the grain so that you will have nothing left but wood (and possibly stain, if you had it to begin with) when you are through. Be sure to rinse the solution promptly after scrubbing to prevent it from drying on the wood and potentially causing further damage. It is recommended to refrain from using a pressure washer, as heavy currents of water may cause premature damage to the wood, especially if your deck is older. To eliminate the risk of the solution drying before you get the chance to rinse it off, it is a good idea to work with small areas at a time, even if you have to break the task up into a couple of days.

Once you have thoroughly cleaned your deck, the next step is to cover it with a sealer or stain. There are three main different types that you can use: regular sealer, which will need to be applied every two years; semitransparent stain, which will need to be reapplied every two to four years, or heavy stain. Both semitransparent and heavy stain come in a variety of colors, and are available in most home improvement stores such as Home Depot or Lowes.

For some decks, however, the damage is too permanent to be removed by simply cleaning, and even if the structural integrity has remained sound, heavy weathering has taken a toll. These decks will require a little more work. First, you will need to carefully inspect every nail on the top of your deck. If you find rust, replace the nail; if you find that the nail is sticking too far out of the wood at the top, be sure to hammer it down. This will prevent any complications while you are sanding the deck, which is the next step.

To sand your deck, you will need to move the sander in three different directions: across the grain first in a perpendicular pattern, then progress to a diagonal pattern, and finally end by moving parallel with the grain of the wood with the sander. It is important to sand against the grain last if you feel it is necessary to do so at all, because doing so prematurely may cause splintering.

Once you have sanded the deck, you can take a step back and help yourself to a cool glass of lemonade-the hardest part is over! You have an option at this point; either you can buy a commercial deck brightener, or make your own. It is generally more cost-effective to make your own, and all you have to do is mix 4 ounces of oxalic acid crystals into a gallon of slightly heated water ( There are several possible ways to effectively distribute this mixture onto your deck; however, the easiest is by simply using a conventional mop. Make sure you spread carefully, or take precautions to cover any plants or grass that may be harmed by an overspill of the liquid.

After you have thoroughly covered your deck with the brightener and it has had plenty of time to dry, the only remaining step is to choose between a sealer or a stain to complete your deck’s new makeover. Once you have applied the final coat, sit back and bask in the glow of your newly restored deck-and remember, routine cleaning and the reapplication of your preferred top coat will maintain the wood’s beautiful luster for many years to come.