PRO Deck Doctor – Park City Custom Decks, Deck Restoration, Deck Builder
Maintenance is periodic cleaning and sealing. Restoration is removing old topcoats and oxidized wood revealing the clean fresh wood underneath. These two terms are often used interchangeably. However, there are differences between the two.
Maintenance, requires an application of a cleaner. The cleaners remove dirt and contaminants. They are often used in conjunction with a rinsing method. The solutions used to clean wood can have a great impact on the overall performance of the topcoat. Sometimes even more importantly these cleaning solutions can negatively impact the integrity of the wood itself. All too often we think that the once a tree is felled, and milled that it is no longer “alive.” This is far from the truth.. In fact many species of wood can propagate long after it’s stacking in the log pile.
For the sake of discussion here let’s look at Redwood and Cedar. These woods are filled with a components know as extractives. These are organic compounds like tannins, flavonoids, quinones and lignans and water-soluble compounds such as carbohydrates, alkaloids, proteins and inorganic material. Woods containing extractives require special attention with regards to cleaning solutions.
Cleaning solutions have adverse effects on these compounds. Reactions such as discoloration, compositional breakdown, and actual wood deterioration can just some of the negative effects. Special attention needs to be taken with woods like redwood and cedar to avoid catastrophic reactions.
Many over the market cleaners contain bleaches and phosphates. These chemicals are invisible in the over effects. But they breakdown the structural fibers in the wood and over time can result in a depreciated lifespan of the wood itself. Bleaches on wood should be avoided unless recommended by the topcoat manufacturer. Yes, there are topcoats on the market at require bleach be used as a cleaning agent. The reason for this is that a chemical bond occurs between the bleach residue and the acrylics used.
Oxalic acid is perhaps the most common cleaner used on Redwood and Cedar. Both of these woods are relatively low on the Ph scale. Subjecting these woods to an influx of acid reinvigorates the extractives and thereby returns the wood to it’s truest color and hue. When ever applying a pigmented or dyed stain be sure to achieve the best hue, otherwise the finish product will not be the desired color.
Some cleaners contain Sodium Hydroxide. This is very high on the Ph scale and the reaction that occurs can be a very dark discoloration. This is normal. To reverse the darkening use an acid wash solution, and the effects will reverse almost instantly.
We recommend using environmentally friendly cleaning solutions for the most part. There are times that the concentration needs to be altered in order to achieve the desired affects. Mold and mildew react poorly to acidic concentrations.. Heavy basic solutions will have a greater impact in eradicating these types of issues. In the end it still remains critical to balance the wood to the correct Ph. Without getting too technical, it is better err on the acidic side with woods such as Redwood and Cedar. Some exotic hardwoods, however, require just the opposite.
A recent development in the cleaning are the use of per chlorates. The reason woods turns gray is that it oxidizes. Which means woods reactions with the oxygen in the atmosphere and begins to breakdown. The severity of the reaction depends on many conditions, not the least of which is the level of humidity for your specific geographic location. The New England area, which is very humid experiences this change fairly readily. And in fact is often desired. Per chlorates halt the oxidation reaction and restores the natural color of the wood.
Redwood and Cedar are known as decay resistant woods. We use them primarily because in moist, humid, conditions these woods resist decay from the elements and from lower plant forms and from insects. Left untreated these woods perform exceptionally well. Topcoats are used as a preservation thereby resisting or retarding this oxidation process. In higher elevations however, the oils in the topcoats actually prevent wood deterioration from Ultraviolet exposure.
Using chemicals to clean your wood deck can very effective. However, one needs to be attentive to the chemicals used in order to achieve the desired results. The wood planks on the deck are still very much alive in so much as they possess nature’s decay resistant properties. Robbing the wood of these chemical compounds can reduce the performance of topcoats and of the life expectancy of the wood itself. A well maintained healthy deck can last generations.
Restoration Restoration by our definition requires removing the existing topcoat and oxidized wood. The best way to conduct this is by sanding. Some chemical solutions are designed to remove the topcoat but they do not remove dead wood, broken screws, or leave your deck in a healthy balanced state.
When you receive a restoration from PRO Deck Doctor here is what you receive:
- Removal and replacement of errant and protruding screws.
- Mechanical removal of existing topcoat, mill glaze and dead wood fibers
- Testing with a computer for the proper Ph and moisture content as to wood type, and manufacturer’s recommendations for topcoat performance
- Neutralizing and brightening with chemically appropriate solutions
- Hand brushed application of a topcoat
Replacing screws is very labor intensive. It is perhaps the most critical aspect of deck restoration. There are two reasons we remove and replace screws. Screws very often break. When this happens the boards is susceptible to warping and shifting. Re affixing the boards helps prevent this warping. It also helps strengthen the deck. More importantly, countersinking the screws prevents the heads from being damaged during the sanding process
Once the heads of the screws are damaged they become increasingly difficult, if not impossible to remove. Screws that are damaged will often have a reaction with the wood and a condition called, Tannic reaction” will occur. This reaction results in black streaking , grain wise from the location where there is bare metal coming in contact with the wood. In time this reaction can actually deteriorate the wood rendering the fastener to loose it’s ability to sufficiently hold the board to the framing. Damaged screws are preventable. We take the time and effort to ensure the screws will not become damaged.
Replacement screws can vary depending on the wood decking we are working with. The optimal screw we use for replacement is a 3 inch stainless steel. This screw type is premium. Stainless tends not to react adversely with many woods. Zinc Oxide screws are a more economical way to go. These screws however depending on the manufacture can be brittle and break easily. Also zinc oxide has a coating that can chip, or wear away easily resulting in Tannic reaction , explained above. For composite decks we follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. 3 inch multi tread ceramic coated are most common.
The next step in the restoration process typically involves mechanical removal of the existing topcoat and oxidized wood. We take sanding very seriously. Our machine and techniques are proven. We always sand with the grain. Our machines are specially designed to sand the most uneven boards to a nice flat smooth un-splintered finish. We use the appropriate grit (s) to achieve this. Our techniques allow us to avoid ‘scoops’ that other companies may leave. ( Scoops are grounded indentations that result from the operator sanding un evenly.) Our goal is always to remove the least amount of wood required to return the luster and beauty of the wood grain.
Our finishing tools, many of which we have invented, allow us to sand were others can not. The boards under railings and stairs can sometimes be difficult to reach. PRO Deck Doctor has developed tools and techniques to sand areas that others leave untouched. Doing so ensures your deck has a nice universally sand surface so that the finish is uniform.
Sanding by far, achieves the best prepped surface. If you have an existing solid based stain or paint we may recommend a chemical treatment be used first to remove product from between the boards. Post chemical sanding is used to achieve a uniform surface . NOTE: We ONLY use environmentally friendly cleaning solutions. We believe protecting the environment is paramount.
Once the sanding process has been complete the next step is brightening the wood. This step involves using specific acidic or alkaline treatments. By using this process we return the wood to it’s natural color and breakdown any remaining oils that may inhibit the proper penetration of the topcoat. Many times there remains an ‘invisible’ film on the wood. This film is often the remnants of the old topcoat applications. If this old oil is not adequately removed the stain will appear to have a mottled or splotchy look. This look can diminish the truest beauty of the deck surface and make all your prep work for naught. Once the chemical treatment has been performed we test, with a microprocessor, the surface to ensure the proper Ph has been reached and the deck is suitable for staining. If the wood is not balanced correctly the lifespan and performance of the topcoat can be dramatically compromised.
Our computer tests are used for several reasons: one, to ensure the Ph is correct. Secondly to ensure the moisture content of the wood is sufficient to apply the stain. And thirdly, to verify that the temperature of the deck boards is correct. If the deck board temperature is not correct ( as per the manufacturer’s recommendation) the topcoat will dry prematurely and not properly penetrate the wood.
And The final step in the restoration process is a ‘HAND BRUSHED’ application of the desired topcoat. We have tried every method imaginable to apply the topcoat. In the end it is our professional opinion that hand brushing achieves the truest, most uniform and beautiful finish. It takes considerably longer to apply the finish this we but in the end it’s worth it. The topcoat goes on uniformly, and thus breaks down uniformly. This uniform break down allows for ease in maintenance in the future. Other application methods result in areas with larger quantities of product and will have a patchy effect when one goes to conduct maintenance in the future. We believe in setting the home owner up for success. Our restoration process is labor intensive but ensures the deck will maintain it’s luster for a longer period of time.