By Clyde Jennings
July 10, 2011 (La Mesa)--If you're not aware of the "green movement", you just haven't been paying attention. More than ever, and growing every year, homeowners not only are asking the age-old questions of price, features and style, but they seriously want to know the green attributes of a project. In other words, does the project in question impact the environment as little as possible?
We've been in the building and remodeling business in the San Diego area for more than 50 years -- ever since my dad started the business with a $20 load of lumber in 1957 -- and our customers are representative of a trend nationwide. People want to go green, but don't always know what that means.
As a result, we receive many questions from customers about being sustainable and environmentally friendly -- and we'll provide information on current issues that may concern them. For example, we will often discuss renewable resources such as redwood. Though we now sell many different types of building material, we began the business with redwood and it remains our favorite because of its warm natural beauty and decay resistant qualities. These days the old-growth redwood forests are preserved, while harvested lands are replanted. Knowing this can help people connect with the wood in a new way. The redwood deck in someone's backyard is part of the natural cycle that goes back thousands of years and will endure thousands more.
One of the ways many customers also connect with us is through deck building. Indeed, decks have never been more popular. Not only do they create a place for family and friends to bond, cook, eat and enjoy the outdoors, but it is a great investment. According to Remodeling magazine, a deck is the single best way to increase the value of a home.
Some of those customers with an old existing deck may assume it needs to be ripped out. Older decks have often been exposed to years of outdoor abuse -- rain, droppings from trees and birds, spills and other general abuse. However, while a deck may look old and faded and covered with dirt and grime, may have deck boards rotting or loose railings, it can be saved. We would certainly advise an inspection of the undercarriage, frame and floor joists for safety, but an existing deck can be refurbished and looks great.
The good news is that refurbishing is extremely environmentally friendly, and is a relatively simple way to restore the warmth and beauty of a wood deck.
The first step in such a process is to remove debris that might be trapped between boards. We recommend using the edge of a metal putty knife. Once the deck is clear, it will be important to repair any damage, such as damaged boards or loose railings. For any loose boards on the deck surface, hammer nails that may have popped out. To reinforce loose boards, it is best to use galvanized coated screws, which won't rust if exposed to wet weather, and also provide a more reliable bond than nails.
Next, a homeowner would want to scrub a deck to remove dirt, stains, grease and mildew. We often recommend a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water, though you could use Simple Green or a household laundry detergent. Before refinishing, difficult stains can be removed with an acid-based deck restoration product. In addition, you can strip and clean a deck that has an existing stain finish using a commercial deck scrub that you brush in and rinse off.
Though some people paint decks with deck paint, most choose to take advantage of the natural beauty of wood by applying a clear or lightly finished stain. Slightly tinted transparent stains will last longer and protect the wood longer than clear finished, and we most often recommend penetrating oil-based finishes for deck surfaces. If you choose to paint, use a stain-blocking oil or alkyd primer first.
This sort of refurbishing can be done by most homeowners who have some DIY experience. And, as a final bit of advice, homeowners looking to hire a professional should be careful. It is easy for fly-by-night contractors to take advantage of homeowners looking to have a deck re-done. Make sure to ask for references and confirm a contractor is reliable before hiring.
Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, refurbishing your deck is one of the greenest remodeling tasks you can do. And you'll enjoy the results for years to come.
Clyde Jennings is President of J&W Lumber -- http://jwlumber.com/index.php -- which has six locations throughout the San Diego area.