Wisconsin and other areas of the country can be tough on any wood structure, “…cycles of wet and dry, swelling and shrinking, cause wood to warp, split, cup and crack. All of these conditions lead to shortened wood life and expensive repairs or replacement without proper care,” says Paul Kronebusch of Roof To Deck Restoration. “Between the wide range of temperatures and humidity throughout the year, wood is constantly expanding and contracting, challenging the integrity of the wood, no matter what species you have,” Kronebusch says. “Add into the mix the UV rays from sunlight and the occasional hail storm and you have the one of the worst climates for protecting your wood structure.”
“One way to put maintaining your wood deck, fence or roof in perspective, is to consider the old farm houses or collapsed barns you may see in the countryside in Wisconsin from time to time,” muses Kronebusch. “That represents the end stage of what your home is being hit with right now. Time and the elements spare no structure unless you have a proactive plan to protect your wood.”
Being Aware: The 1st Step
The first step in maintaining your wood is to understand the need to protect wood that is facing the elements. Once bark is taken off the tree, the wood has no way of protecting itself. The damaging effects of weather to unprotected wood can begin immediately. Rain, melting snow, and morning dew are quickly absorbed by wood causing it to swell. The sun’s heat causes drying, which makes the wood shrink. These cycles of wet and dry, swelling and shrinking, cause wood to warp, split, cup, and crack. Without proper care, all of these conditions lead to shortened wood life and expensive repairs or replacement.
Cleaning and sealing your wood structures can double the life of your wood and make your deck, log home, or cedar roof look like new again!
“Often people build a deck using weather treated wood and think that’s enough. However, in a relatively short time, the treated lumber will loose its ability to resist the elements and begin to weather, or degrade,” says Kronebusch.
Signals To Look For
The signals that your deck or fence may need some attention are relatively simple to see. A visual review will produce the information you need. Does your wood look…Dry? Rough? Faded? Do you see cracking, peeling, or failing stain? If any of these conditions exist, your wood is beginning to age at an accelerated rate because the protective sealants or stains are no longer functioning. The elements have broken them down and routine maintenance is needed.
The Protection Process
The general steps/procedure to refresh your wood is as follows:
#1) Remove the old sealer or stain—the surface must be prepared to accept a new coating of sealer or stain.
#2) Power wash the wood with low pressure to protect the wood. This is needed to clean dirt and any other debris from cracks and pores in the surface.
#3) Use a neutralizing agent to brighten and prepare the wood for stain or sealer. The wood surface must be stable in terms of moisture content.
#4) Dry the wood for several days. The moisture content should be 12% or less. The wood must be dry enough to allow sealer or stain and wood to bond properly.
#5) Stain and seal the wood.
“My advice to a homeowner is if a contractor does not follow these basic steps, the final outcome will be less than your wood surface needs for protection,” says Kronebusch. “Your home deserves more and so do you.”