Sprucing up your deck for the busy summer ahead

Decks are great for outdoor fun. But after a few years, they need attention. Here are some things you can do to prepare your deck for summer entertaining.

Your first step is to reset any nails that have worked their way above the surface. Pass out hammers and invite the family to join you. If nails need to be replaced, you might have better results with decking screws.

Replace deck boards that are split or badly warped. Carefully pry up the bad boards so you don’t damage the good ones next to them. Use pressure-treated lumber for all replacements if it will match. Of course, if the deck is redwood, use redwood.

Don’t overlook Deck Railing. This can become loose, and a few well-placed screws usually will take care of the problem.

The deck’s overall appearance probably needs attention, too. Take care of mildew stains with a mixture of 1 cup liquid laundry bleach to 1 gallon of water. Scrub the spot clean and then rinse. If the mildew doesn’t come off, try again with a stronger bleach mixture.

If the wood has weathered and looks gray, you can start all over again by applying one of the new oxalic acid products on the market. These strip the old wood surface to make it look new again. Most are applied as a liquid, brushed down into the surface and then washed off – with amazing results.

Once you’ve stripped the wood surface, apply a protective finish. The most popular treatment is a clear water sealer to guard against warping, splitting and other problems that shorten the life of a deck.

Dear All: I had given up on trying to keep a tablecloth on our picnic table outside. It would blow up and spill things and just cause problems. My kids took the clothespins off my clothesline and used them around the edge of the table to hold the cloth down. Boy, aren’t they smart. I’m glad someone in the family has some sense!