When spring is in the air and the season for outdoor living heading our way, now is the time to get a jump start on reconditioning the things around the yard that we use so much in warmer weather. Has the deck seen better days? Before you put those screens back up, do they need cleaning? Is the barbecue ready for your first cookout? And could the lawn furniture use a face-lift before you bring it out of the garage for another year?
Here are some tips to help you get all these summer items ready. With a little bit of know-how, getting your outdoor living areas ready for spring doesn't have to be a chore. Instead it can be sort of fun to dust off the winter cobwebs. A deck that was built a few years ago of pressure treated lumber, after lots of weathering may be looking pretty dark and dingy. The first step to cleaning the deck is to sweep all the surface dirt and tree droppings off; then spray on an oxalic acid solution, which is what professional deck cleaners recommend, and let it sit on the section for about a half an hour. You can spray it on with any garden variety sprayer.
Will this stuff kill the lawn? No, it's actually a naturally occurring acid that won't hurt plants or fish. It's still acid, though, so you should really wear eye protection and gloves when you use it. For the next step, you really need about 3000 psi behind the water rinse to get off all the grime. You can rent a sprayer from most rent-all centers. The key to using a sprayer to get the acid off the deck is the nozzle. It's specially shaped so you don't scar or scrape the deck as you work.
If I don't have a mega sprayer, can I just scrub the deck with bleach or a fungicide? You really shouldn't use bleach, because it eats away at the wood and can inhibit its ability to hold a seal. Fungicide will only drive the problem deeper into the wood, and sometimes you'll see little black spots, which are actually mildew spores, forming on the wood surface in a few weeks. You really should use the oxalic acid — it's considered a wood restorative. The acid penetrates the wood and kills microorganisms and restores the wood's pH. And you will see, it does a pretty good job on the appearance! It will be ready to treat with a good sealant in 24 to 48 hours, as long as the weather is good. Can I hire someone to do this for me? Professional deck cleaners are definitely another good way to go. An average size deck, that's never been treated with sealant before, will run about $500 to clean. If your deck's already got sealer on it, there's a stripping treatment that may need to be applied before the cleaning treatment, and that costs more.
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