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Ask the expert: Does my deck need maintenance before the winter?

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Does my deck need maintenance before the winter?

The fall is a good time to check your deck structurally and make any necessary repairs before the harsh winter temperatures and snowfall come rolling in. Because of the exposure of your home to outside elements, it is actually a good idea to check the entire exterior of your home to see if any maintenance is needed and to prevent costly emergency repairs.

It is a good idea to establish a semi-annual routine to provide maintenance during fall and spring, when the weather is more enjoyable and household chores are more easily tolerated. Whether it’s a fresh coat of paint, a good cleaning or a minor repair, it is important to put the time and effort into protecting your investment and ensuring your family’s safety and comfort.

Overloaded or neglected decks and porches can lead to accelerated deterioration both aesthetically and physically, and may even cause them to sway and become unstable. Prior to this seasons snowfall, which will add additional weight to your deck, and further stress the deck materials during freeze-thaw cycles, it is important to take a good look at the structure of your deck.

Check to see if the deck is pulling away from your home, sloping or sinking. Check if there are wobbly handrails or guardrails that may give way with a good push. Check to see if there are any signs of termites or carpenter ants that may have compromised the structure of any wooden materials. Check if there are any rusted metal connections, or missing nails or screws. A loose floor board or post can be hazardous when additional weight is added to the deck.

You should also check under your deck or porch to make sure the ledger board that fastens to your house is secure. While you are there, check the posts, beams, joist and joist hangers, and hardware to ensure there is no rot.

If you are unsure about the repairs that are needed for your deck, or if the repairs are a little more than you anticipated, ask a licensed professional to provide their assessment of your deck, and provide an estimate for the repairs.

It is also a good idea to trim nearby bushes and trees to avoid any excess water dripping onto the deck causing mold, moss and rot to overtake your deck. Don’t let leaves and debris pile up in corners, this will also have the same effect on the deck materials. Move planters, chairs and tables off the deck if possible. This will avoid discoloration of your decking materials.

If your gutters hang above your deck, make sure the leaves and debris have been removed so that rain water can easily flow to the downspouts. Clogged gutters will cause water to splash down on your deck, creating excessive ware to the areas below the gutters, or worse accumulating water, which can freeze and further damage your deck.

During the spring, it is a good time to scrub down and wash your deck to remove any mold or mildew that may have accumulated over the winter. It is also a good time to seal or stain your deck, prior to the harsh temperatures of the summer.

As with any home improvement repairs, it is always good to address the issue earlier than later. Prolonging it will only make it worse, and can create an even greater expense. When considering your next home improvement repair or project, identify if it is something you can handle yourself, or it you need a professional. It is sometimes worth having an experienced eye provide the right solution and repairs the first time.

When selecting a professional, make sure they are reputable and are knowledgeable about the problem you are having or the project you want to take on. Any home improvement repairs or projects above $200 require a professional firm to have a NYC Department of Consumer Affairs license, and to be properly insured. Protect your home and family by selecting a contractor or professional firm that provides the right services, a written contract, an acceptable payment schedule and that maintains a good reputation.

Jeff Troost, President Troost Bros. Inc. Home Renovations

(718) 667-3131

All our experts are licensed, bonded and insured members of the Staten Island Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (The Home Improvement Contractors of Staten Island). Homeowners should always consult with licensed professionals, check a contractor's license through the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (call 311 for information) and ensure that their project complies with NYC DOB regulations before embarking on any home improvement project.

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