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Deck maintenance: How to keep your deck looking like new

(Thinkstock)Spending time outdoors is one of the highlights of summer and if you're lucky enough to have a deck or patio, chances are you spend as much time out there as possible during the warm weather.

In order to enjoy this outdoor space for many years to come, proper deck maintenance is important. Not only will proper maintenance keep your deck looking great, but it can also help to keep your family safe and save you money down the road.

"Depending on where you live, like an area that gets heavy rain, you can have problems with mould and algae and that can make your deck very slippery," says Fiona Wilson, an expert sales associate with The Home Depot. "This can be very dangerous if you've got children or anybody elderly in the family."

If your deck is new, the priority should be getting a protective coating applied to the wood — which involves a multi-step process.

First thing you'll want to do, says Wilson, is to use a mill glaze remover or cleaner to get all of the initial mill-glaze off the wood.

"Even a new deck will have a coating on it from when the wood was initially passed through the mill," she says. You can simply use a garden hose and plastic bristle brush to give your deck a very light scrub before hosing off and letting it dry thoroughly (about two days) before moving on to the next step.

[See also: How to keep garden pests away, naturally]

Wilson says to never use a power washer to prep the surface. "Pressure washing a deck is going to push so much water into the deck and you're going to have to wait 3-5 sunny days before it's actually dry from the inside before you can put any coating on."

The next step to apply a protective coating to the wood. Wilson explains that the most popular ones are acrylic-based, making them very easy to use and with just a soap and water cleanup — easy to maintain. If you follow this process, Wilson says you can expect to get anywhere from 4-8 years of general use from your deck.

Expect to pay around $60-$70 for materials to refinish the average (300-400 square foot) deck; prices will vary depending on the particular products you choose.

If your deck is a bit older and has seen better days, there's a bit more work involved in revamping it.

"If it's a deck that you've acquired through purchasing or moving, it's best to try to figure out what's already on there because some coatings aren't compatible with other coatings," says Wilson.

If there's a coating on the wood already, Wilson says you'll want to remove that first, which could add another $100 or so to your total costs. "The idea is initially you'll have to put a bit more time into it but then you'll have a maintenance-free deck for years," she says.

It's important to keep in mind that you'll need the weather to be warm enough, but not too warm, when you're applying your stain. If you try to do it too early in the season and it's not warm enough, it won't cure properly, explains Wilson. Alternatively, if you try to apply a stain when it's too hot out, the sun can sometimes dry it too quickly.

Wilson also suggests that most Canadians avoid using linseed oil products on their deck. "They do serve a great purpose, but a lot of linseed oils and oil-based products actually encourage the mould and algae to grow," she says. "It makes it easier for them to set in which causes you more maintenance even further down the road."

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