There are so many great reasons to build a deck on your home. Decks add value to your property, make great outdoor entertainment spaces (yay more leisure and quality family time!) and if you choose the right one, they make a stunning addition to your home. Many homeowners choose to build wooden decks for their durability and functionality as entertainment and leisure space. However, like all structures, no deck lasts forever. That leaves many wondering, what really is the lifespan of a deck? When you have a new deck constructed, how long should you expect it to last? And what factors determine its lifespan? These are all questions you should consider when you build your deck.
In this blog, we’ll tell you all about the factors that affect a deck’s lifespan and offer advice for maintaining your deck so that it has a long, healthy life.
Factors that Affect a Deck’s Lifespan
Not all decks are created equal. Whether you go for a wooden deck or a composite material, the material you choose to construct your deck with will have a large impact on its durability and lifespan. The average life span of a wooden deck is 10-15 years, but there is definitely a range depending on the type of wood and whether or not it is pressure treated. Pressure-treated wooden decks have the shortest lifespan of about 5-10 years. Cedar, on the other hand, lasts 15-20 years. While traditional wood has been the most common decking material for a long time, newer technology is paving the way for even longer-lasting decks. Composite decks, which are constructed of a combination of wood fibers and plastic, have the longest lifespan. Capped composite have an average lifespan of 25-30 years, while capped polymer decks can potentially last up to 50 years or more.
Another factor to take into account is the climate. Decks built in wet, humid environments, for example, will have a shorter lifespan than those in more arid regions. This is because the wooden boards will absorb the moisture in the environment and cause the wood to swell up and eventually rot. Areas that experience lots of rainfall will, naturally, be harsher on wooden decks which can only stand so much moisture. Summer heat and humidity is especially damaging to wooden decks if the wood is untreated or unsealed. Sunlight affects a deck’s lifespan as well. This has to do not only with the general climate of the area you are building in, but the presence of lack of shade on your property. Direct sunlight exposure over prolonged periods of time will obviously take a toll on the wooden boards. Keeping your deck in a shaded area will reduce sunlight exposure and therefore increase its lifespan.
Adding a deck to your home certainly carries some responsibility. Keeping a deck in good shape requires rigorous, consistent maintenance. Maintaining it carefully will expand the lifespan of your deck and keep it looking in tip-top shape for the years you have it. This includes regularly sweeping the deck, cleaning it thoroughly at least once a year, and using a sealant or stain to protect the wood from graying and protect it from weather wear and tear. When sweeping your deck, keep an eye out for splintering in the boards, nails sticking up, loose boards, and rotting wood. Sealing and staining helps protect decks from the impact of moisture, and can repair any damage once it occurs. Cedar decks need to be stained at least every 1-2 years, while other types of wood may only need to be stained once every 2-3 years. If you stain your deck, make sure to sand the surface thoroughly before application to create as smooth of a surface as possible.
There are multiple benefits to adding a covering above your deck. For starters, it gives your outdoor deck a makeover. It provides shade from the sun, so you can lie out on it all summer long without getting burnt. It also provides protection from rain, so you can enjoy leisure time your deck no matter the weather. This is not only for your benefit, but for the structure itself. As mentioned, moisture and UV rays can severely compromise the composition of the wood. Adding a covering overhead prevents decks from absorbing excess moisture (leading to rot) and protects it from UV rays which cause damage and discoloration. Choosing the right covering will protect you from the elements and add extra ambiance to the space. Popular coverings for decks include pergolas, umbrellas, plastic sheeting, canvas covers, and canopies.
Frequent Usage of the Deck
Normally, everyday usage of the deck should not impact its lifespan too badly. But if you’re hard on it– for example, if you have young kids who frequently stomp and jump around, putting pressure on the wooden boards– that could threaten the integrity of the structure. You should steer clear of pressure washing — the pressure may cause splintering and damage to the timber fibres in the boards. Even on composite decks, pressure washing could scar the boards and affect the warranty. Another no-no is placing a fire pit on your wooden deck, which is a major fire hazard. If you place potted plants on your deck, place a saucer underneath to keep excess water and soil from seeping on to the boards. Additionally, if you plan on grilling or barbecuing on the deck, you should also be aware of oil spills and food residue which could impact wooden boards.
Let’s say you find yourself in the very unfortunate position of having a tree fallen on your deck– well, sadly your deck would not be in good condition. But, thankfully, home insurance would usually cover this since the deck is an attachment on your home, and thereby included in the definition of property required by insurance. While it’s an unlikely scenario, it can happen in the event of a severe weather event such as a hurricane. If your deck has trees around it, it is something to look out for. You can look for warning signs in trees that signal risk of falling, including dead branches, hollow spots in the trunk, roots raising up, or big chunks of bark missing. Whether or not the deck itself will be reparable after a fallen tree depends entirely on the severity and extent of the damage.
Pollen in the air
Pollen doesn’t just give you allergies. It can also damage wood. While this does not apply to composite decks, it does apply to wooden ones and is something to be aware of. Pollen is basically unavoidable, especially in the springtime. But extreme quantities of pollen in the air can get lodged in the boards of your deck. This can stain the surface of the deck and make the surface dangerously slippery. Regular cleaning of the deck is essential to prevent the build-up of pollen. You can clean pollen by hosing off all surfaces (including plastic furniture). Thoroughly vacuum dust off of wicker furniture, then clean with soap and water. For cloth surfaces, shake the pollen off, then wipe the surface down with a wet cloth. One of the best ways to prevent pollen is to cover up all furniture with a plastic covering during pollen season. Additionally, many deck owners opt for fiberglass mesh or window screens to keep dust and pollen out.
Mold is a living organism that can grow on decks, causing serious health hazards and structural damage to your decking. Mold can be particularly destrucive to wooden decks. Over time, accumulated moisture seeps into the wooden boards of the decking, creating the perfect storm of conditions for mold to grow. When mold develops, it “eats” away at the wood, will continue growing and ause wood rot. This is especially an issue in humid environments with excess moisture in the air. Black mold commonly grows on wooden decks. It may also present problems for composite decks, but unlike wooden decks, it can be easily washed off. Mold spores present a health hazard as well— when mold grows, their spores spread into the air and, when inhaled, can lead to respiratory problems. Cleaning your deck regularly and keeping it as dry as possible will help prevent the growth of mold.
Water intrusion is maybe the most important factor impacting a deck’s longevity. It can absolutely destroy your deck. While the effects of an ongoing water intrusion may appear gradual, but over time it causes the wood to deteriorate. When water gets absorbed into the wooden boards, it causes wood rot. To protect your deck’s structural integrity, should be especially vigilant of water intrusion on your deck, especially if you live in a humid and/or rainy area. In the worst case scenario, extensive damage could cause your to deck collapse, causing serious injury. Applying a good sealant to your deck can make it more waterproof. If you suspect a leak may be occurring, inspect common locations of leaks on your deck including the flashing, seams, door installation, drainage, and siding coverage.