Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Decking care & finishes

“Our house was built in 1986 with a large l-shaped deck — which back then was pressure-treated stuff.


We have power-washed & used a clear stain a number of times over the years….. but have let it go. One side is baked in sun, and splintering; other shady side has mildew.


Now, I’m hearing all these ads for great deck coverups that make it sound so much better than those traditional Cabot or Thompson sealers.


Is there anything to look for or that you can recommend that we won’t be doing again in 3 or 4 years”




This is a great question with one short answer: if your deck is cracked and failing, nothing will stop it, but there are products that will slow it down or kill it faster. Wood is a natural material that wants to break down and become dirt again. We force inject chemicals into wood to slow fungal decay and rot, but the wood will still crack, peel, and have its own kind of spongy rot failure.


Modern pine that becomes pressure treated wood is not the greatest wood. It is fast grown, has a wild grain, and is very low on the rot resistance scale. So a deck that is fully exposed to the harshness of our climate, like sun, rain, snow, ice, the wood will expand and contract, causing the grain to peel and crack. You will not see the same failure with mahogany, Ipe, or other tight grained, dense, rot resistant woods. But once the failure process starts, there is little to stop it.


You can fill it, caulk it, epoxy it, or even coat it with a magic “deckover” paint, but no product can stop failure once it starts. The “deckover” paints have fillers and some elasticity to them conceal and resist cracks, not prevent or cure. Also, like many paints and coatings, once it’s on there is no going back to a clear, natural look, you just keep coating and keep coating. After a few seasons these finishes will cracks, bubble, and trap moisture and cause accelerated failure.


Truth is Ann, the best way to care for a deck and any wood product is to maintain it with a preservative or paint. For exposed decks a preservative (not a sealer or stain) is best. I have used with great success the Penofin brand products. Penofin is a preservative that contains oils and solvents, just the thing wood needs to be protected by the elements, yet will not peel or fail. But it is flammable and stinky, but for me that means it works. You will have to recoat every two years or so, same as the magic coatings.

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