Winter Deck Care: How To Protect Your Deck from Snow and Ice

winter deck care

Winter is on its way, and that means it’s time to prepare your home and deck to withstand the harsh weather to come. 

When you live in a place where the winters are especially intense (a Minnesota winter certainly fits that bill!), winter deck care is crucial. It’s important to protect your deck from snow and ice in order to prolong its life and save time, energy, and money in the long run. 

In this blog, we’ll cover how winter weather affects your deck, snow removal tips, and a few things you can do to protect your deck from the elements.

Understanding the Impact of Winter Weather on Decks

The snow, ice, and frigid temperatures of winter can do a number on your deck. Even going one season without the right preparation can leave your deck looking disheveled and shabby.

One of the biggest enemies to your deck is moisture (especially if your deck is made of wood). As dirt, leaves, pine needles, and other debris build up on your deck and in between floor boards, they give moisture a place to settle. In winter, this gives snow and ice a better chance to build up and lock in moisture.

Once moisture makes its home in the nooks and crannies of your deck, it can cause warping, mold, or rot, increase the chance of pest infestation, and ultimately affect not only the appearance of your deck, but also its structural integrity. 

Preparing Your Deck for the Winter Season

1. Remove Debris and Clutter

First, remove any debris that has collected on your deck. Pick up or sweep off leaves, sticks, and trash, and don’t forget to remove debris that has made its way between your deck’s floor boards.

Now is also the time to put away any deck furniture and accessories you won’t use this winter, as well as planters and other decor. You may choose to leave your furniture in place for the winter and cover it, but stowing it away is a better option if you have the storage space.

2. Clean and Remove Mildew

Next, give your deck a good cleaning. When debris and dirt are left on your deck through the winter, it can cause mold, rot, or other damage as snow, sleet, and ice are piled on top of it.

You may choose to power wash your deck (but be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for power washing). Or you can clean it the old fashioned way: get onto your hands and knees and scrub! However you do it, the goal here is to remove any lingering dirt, debris, mildew, and stains, and to prepare your deck for staining or sealing (more on that in a bit). 

Using a deck wash solution (again, check your manufacturer’s recommendations for your particular decking material), apply the cleaner to your deck and let it sit for a bit. Then scrub and rinse. As you scrub, look closely at your deck, checking for mold or mildew that may be hiding in the spaces between the boards. Use a small brush to better reach those areas.

3. Inspect Your Deck

Once your deck is clean, perform a general inspection. Inspect the surface of your deck, as well as underneath, watching for areas where moisture has penetrated to create weak spots. Look for loose boards, railings, and footings as well, and tighten up any hardware. 

If you find that your deck is in need of repairs, schedule them now. It’s better to make repairs before winter hits so the snow and ice don’t make matters worse.

4. Stain and Seal 

If you have a composite deck, it’s already ideally suited for winter weather: It’s more durable and requires less maintenance than wood decking.

However, if you have a wood deck, you’ll need to make sure it’s properly sealed for the winter. Stain doesn’t just make your wood deck look great — it also provides a protective barrier from the elements.

Once it’s clean, let your deck dry out for a day or two before staining it. Then, depending on your deck’s condition, you may need to sand it or remove old finish before applying a new layer. Doing this gives you a fresher surface to stain. 

Before staining, protect the surrounding area from splatter so you don’t end up with deck stain on your siding or bushes. As you apply the stain, work methodically and patiently, applying thin coats with a paint roller or brush. Make sure to get into corners and smaller areas.

For additional protection against moisture, you may also want to apply a sealant over the stain. A sealant acts like a shield of armor for your deck against rain, snow, sleet, and ice. Follow the instructions on the sealant’s label, paying close attention to the recommended temperature for application.

Sealing or staining your deck should be done at least every two to three years to keep your deck protected from moisture.

Should You Cover Your Deck With a Tarp?

Covering your deck with a tarp in the winter will prevent snow and ice from piling up directly on the decking surface, helping to prevent damage. However, if you use your deck in the winter (we Minnesotans do like a good winter BBQ here and there), this may not be a viable option for you.

If you won’t use your deck, and decide to cover it with a tarp, make sure it’s secured well enough to keep it from blowing away in high winds. In addition, tarps can trap moisture, so make sure to remove the tarp as soon as the threat of snow and ice has diminished in the spring. 

Tips for Removing Snow and Ice From Your Deck

Once your deck is prepared for the winter, all you’ll have left to do is to keep it clear of snow and ice throughout the season.

To protect your decking from damage caused by snow and ice removal implements, keep these tips in mind:

  • For a light dusting of snow, sweep the snow off your deck with a broom instead of using a shovel.
  • Never use a metal shovel on your deck.
  • Always shovel in the same direction as the floor boards. Running the shovel across the width of the boards can cause scratches and ruin your stain. 
  • Salt and ice melt can damage some decking materials and finishes. Always check the decking or finish manufacturer’s recommendations before using.

Professional Winter Deck Care from Hoyt Exteriors: Winter Deck Inspections and Maintenance

Need a deck inspection or repairs made before the snow hits (or once it melts in the spring)? The team at Hoyt makes winter deck care easy, fast, and reliable…and always gets the job done right! Contact us today to get on our schedule.

Looking for more tips to keep your home in top condition all year long? Check out our Year-Round Home Maintenance Checklist!

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