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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

All decked out: Extend life of deck with premium stain, annual power wash

VICTORIA - Decks have become an essential feature of a modern home and a hub of activity for life in the summer, so most homeowners would rather spend their time enjoying them, not maintaining surfaces.

The weather across Canada, from snow to rain and hot sun, can cause serious deck maintenance issues, such as a need for sanding and staining every few years for optimal appearance and durability.

"With the Vancouver weather we get lots of requests for low-maintenance decks," says Jobie Mallett, owner of Vancouver's Little Star Renovations. "People want low maintenance, but I always tell them it doesn't matter what you put on, there is always going to be some kind of maintenance."

Instead of talking low maintenance with his clients, Mallett says he tries to divert their thinking to long lasting because, if nothing else, homeowners will have to power wash their deck every year to extend its life.

"It often comes down to the kind of stain they use," he says. "That is a big deal. People pick cheaper stains and end up having huge maintenance issues down the road."

Mallett says when a homeowner is spending $10,000 on a deck, an extra $200 on well-trusted premium stain is pennies when you consider the amount of maintenance needed in future if you put on a bad product.

"I've seen so many people put on a cheap stain because it has a big box store label on it, and then they have huge issues down the road because they have to try and remove the old stain to put a new one on," he says. "You get what you pay for, but it is well worth the money to buy a premium stain."

Like Mallett, Joshua Czerwinski, sales and design manager/owner of Paramount Custom Decks Inc. in Edmonton, says low maintenance is a huge request from his customers when it comes to decking and related products.

"In the last five to 10 years the low-maintenance products have improved substantially," says Czerwinski. "The selection out there is a lot bigger than it was. The problems and warranty claims have been going down drastically. The products, in my opinion, are a lot better."

Czerwinski says there is annual maintenance homeowners should do like snow removal and cleaning.

Clearing snow from a deck protects the wood and also prevents potential collapse of the deck itself if there's a heavy buildup of the white stuff. Washing annually helps remove leaves and pollen, which can eventually lead to mould, mildew and algae.

Deck construction, much like other home improvement projects, is increasingly being tackled by homeowners. Czerwinski and Mallett say basic deck construction is something someone with basic to intermediate carpentry skills can do.

Before taking on a deck project Czerwinski says there are three essential things to look at.

"The important parts for a homeowner to pay attention to when building a deck is the foundation and the way the deck attaches to the house through a ledger board," he says. "They should also familiarize themselves with all the necessary permits and follow all your local building codes, and that would cover safety."

The biggest issues Czerwinski says homeowners run into with deck construction have to do with the length of time they've given themselves to complete the project.

"A lot of times they will have friends or family come help out and they will be doing the project incorrectly or sometimes it will be taking much too long," he says. "Most of the time it is the combination of those two things."

Be sure the deck will be complete before sending out the party invitations.

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