How To Prepare Your Deck for Winter in Calgary
As a homeowner, you’re likely already doing some winter maintenance every year when the weather turns cold. This might be as simple as turning off outside water lines and checking for drafts around windows and doors – but a little bit of care goes a long, long way.
Maintaining a deck through the weather extremes of a Calgary winter does the same thing. By taking a few quick precautions and being proactive about the care of your deck, you’ll protect this part of your home for many years to come.
Remember: your deck material matters! Composite decking like Trex is more resilient to harsh winter weather and can withstand ice and snow without rotting or warping, making it the best deck material for the cold. Wood takes more effort, but with a little TLC you can maximize its protection, too. If you need some professional guidance on deck care or replacement, feel free to reach out to us.
How do I make my deck safe in the winter?
It should come as no surprise that winter prep for the outdoors starts before the snow falls and the cold truly sets in. In the fall, once you’re sure you won’t be using it anymore until the spring, you can follow these steps to make your deck safe for winter – no matter what material it’s made of.
- Clear away all items. This is as much for preservation as it is for convenience. By clearing off the surface, there will be no uneven weathering in the “shadows” caused by items on it, and you’ll have an easier time shovelling snow if you get a large dump of it throughout the winter. So, cover and store your furniture, barbecue, plant pots, and other items.
- Check for damage. Once the deck is clear, take some time to check the entire area for damage. If you have wood, you’ll want to look closely for warping, cracks, loose nails, rot, and “soft wood”, where the fasteners might rip through. Composite decking, like Trex, generally resist this much better than wood does.
- Trim away branches. Overhanging branches can build up with ice and snow, get heavy, and break off. If it’s big enough, it can cause noticeable damage to the deck when it lands. So, if you’re unsure about a branch nearby, better safe than sorry!
- Sweep and wash the deck. Leaves, dirt, and other debris can wedge into the cracks and become a perfect breeding ground for mold, mildew, fungus, and other nasty stuff. Not only does this carry bacteria, but it can damage the structure of the deck if left unchecked. So, sweep it, wash it with a pressure washer, and use an appropriate cleaner to get any straggling bits.
- Test and apply sealant if necessary. By now your deck should be looking almost new. If it’s wood, let’s see how that sealant is holding up! Use a hose to spread some water across the surface, and watch if it beads up or soaks in. If it’s the latter, you should at the very least do some spot treatments, if not a full reseal. Pay extra attention to places where water pools – these will be the trouble areas as snow melts and freezes. See more about how to seal a deck in the section below in the blog.
- Remove snow. It’s always a good idea to remove excess moisture from a deck and put it elsewhere. Composite, wood, PVC, and other materials can all suffer from the freeze-thaw cycle, after all. So, get in the habit of clearing your deck as needed. Read more about this in the section below.
Should I cover my decking in winter?
While not necessary, and a bit of a hassle when dealing with Calgary’s chinook winds, covering your deck with a tarp or canvas is generally considered to be a good way to protect it from the elements. But it really depends on the material it’s made of.
Covering Composite Decking
Composite decking – made of recycled wood and plastic materials and available from reputable companies like Trex – stands up to winter weather extremely well. While a cover will help, it’s not totally necessary if you’re vigilant about clearing off the worst of the ice and snow.
Covering Wood Decking
Wooden decking, while visually pleasing with its grains and colours, can absorb water much more easily than composite, and experience more damage as a result. Even if you’re very quick with a snowblower, there will always be trickles of water and debris that run down into the cracks and nail holes, where little sealant is there to hold it back. So, if you have a wooden deck – especially if it’s untreated – a cover is probably a good idea, if you can find a good fit.
Covering PVC, Vinyl, or Metal Decking
These materials are much less common, but you may be one of the lucky few to have a deck made from them. They are fairly waterproof by nature and would act much the same as composite in terms of whether they need to be covered: probably not, unless you’re planning on leaving the snow and ice on top of it all winter long. Do make sure to check for cracks, breaks, rust, and other defects, though. Ice expanding and water thawing can exacerbate these issues and make them much worse.
How do you seal a deck for the winter?
Among all deck types, wood is the one that most commonly needs new coats of sealant for winter. Composite – especially good quality brands like Trex – rarely need it, but even when they do (mostly for maintenance purposes), the process of sealing a deck yourself is much the same.
Remember to start this process before the weather gets cold! Ideally you can do it before summer is over, so the heat helps dry out the wood as you need it to.
- Make any needed repairs: if you’ve got loose nails or broken planks, now is the time to fix them. Sealing up a problem won’t get rid of it – it’ll just make the sealant less effective, and you’ll have a bigger problem when it gets warm again.
- Clean, clean, clean: Pick up some specialized deck cleaner and do a deep clean of the planks, spaces, nail holes, and anywhere else you can reach. The goal is to have nothing at all interfering with this sealant, so be generous with the cleaner and heavy with the brush. When you’re done, rinse it all away and let the wood fully dry (you don’t want to seal in a bunch of moisture).
- Some basic tools and elbow grease: Now comes the fun part. Starting at the furthest point from the exit point (stairs or a door into the house), use a good quality roller or brush and get it nice and thick with sealant to avoid dry spots. Load up the planks with it, working on whole boards at a time to avoid flashing. Spread out any excess liquid and make sure it distributes in a nice, even coloration. Keep pets, kids, and everything else off the completed areas until it’s done and dry.
- Let it dry (before it snows): It’s important to do this while the weather is nice because you need to let the sealant fully soak in and dry before it’s ready, and that takes less time in warm weather. A good estimate is 1-2 full summer days, but if it’s colder, it can take longer than that. Once you’re sure it’s good to go, you’re all set for any weather that comes your way.
Should I shovel my deck in the winter?
In a word, yes! Shovelling gets rid of extra moisture, removes unnecessary weight from the deck surface, and prevents additional freeze-thaw exposure when winter eventually turns to spring. However, there are some pro shovelling tips to be aware of when you’re doing so:
Only use it for thick snow
If it’s only a dusting of snow, use a broom or a leaf blower instead. It’s easier on the deck surface while still getting the job done.
Check for dangers before it snows
Look for lifted boards, jutting nails, and other hazards before it snows. The last thing you want is to get caught in the middle of a push and break your shovel or injure yourself.
No metal shovels on composite or wooden decks
Metal can scour and gouge even the most pristine deck surface, and you won’t notice under the snow piles until it’s too late. Use a plastic shovel (or a rubber edge cover) and don’t push down too hard.
Shovel along the deck planks
Go “with the grain” to avoid getting stuck between the slats. This will make shoveling much easier and allow you to pile all the snow off the deck in one area.
Don’t chip ice on a deck with a shovel
Now isn’t the time to be a lumberjack. If you encounter a patch of ice, resist the urge to chop downward at it with the shovel – one wrong move and something gets damaged in a bad way. If you must, try to break it apart from the side, pushing it along with the rest of the snow.
The Best Winter Decks for Calgary and area
Do you have a deck in need of replacement before next winter? Are you looking at your neighbour’s new backyard with a bit of envy? We know the feeling – and we’re here to help! Here at Maritime West Construction in Calgary, we can advise you on styles, materials, and costs, making your dream of the perfect backyard gathering place a reality. Even if you’re in the surrounding areas like Cochrane, Priddis, or Okotoks and need a deck built – we’ve got you! Reach out today and let’s get started!