I’m just going to say it; Decks are awesome! Decks are our outdoor living rooms minus the television. Although I’m sure we could figure out a way to get one there! Family barbecues, entertaining friends or just relaxing in the sun are all wonderful deck activities.

Spring is a great time to take a look at your deck to make sure it’s up to snuff for the summer season. Here are a few things I look for on my deck:

1. Clean like a Champ: Leaves, pine cones and needles, branches and dirt all seem to be left behind as the snow and ice melt. Take some time to give your deck a good spring cleaning. Nature’s garbage can have unintended consequences like staining deck boards, creating trip hazards or hiding problem areas; never mind looking gross. There are two schools of thought on how to properly clean a deck. One is borrow your neighbour’s pressure washer and spray the hell out of it. The problem with this approach is it can actually do damage to the deck boards if you’re not careful, even on composite decking material. The pressure can mark up the wood or drive dirt and debris into the wood you’re trying to clean. Low consistent spray is best if you feel the pressure washer is for you. The second option takes a little bit longer but is less harmful to your deck. A decent scrub brush and deck wash (found at most hardware stores) can clean off dirt or mildew.

2. Check it out: Start at one edge of the deck and walk each deck board. Look for protruding nails, screws, or splits, cracks or warped boards. Hammer down nails and replace bad boards. Carefully check out the handrail; check out its sturdiness and feel to see if there are any sharp areas. If it moves you may have a problem. Properly installed handrail is tough and should hold its own against you. Lastly, inspect your stairs and landing areas – the weight of snow or frost heaves can do strange things. Check for sturdiness and movement as well as loose or damaged wood.

3. Maintain it: No deck is maintenance free, even a composite deck. They’re like cars which need oil changes and brakes and spark plugs. If it’s an older deck there are products on the market that can add years to the life of the wood provided it’s still structurally sound. If it’s newer consider staining, sealing or painting to add longevity.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to have a professional in to inspect your deck. They can look at the framing to make sure its sound and give you a heads up to any problem areas that only a trained eye can see. Summer is coming – so get an early start and make sure your outdoor living spaces are ready to go!