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The Basics of Wood Restoration
Wood Restoration

Wood restoration is becoming a very common concern for homeowners, simply because wood preservation is not often taken seriously until it is too late. Nowadays, a recent estimate is that one third of the homes in the United States have decks attached. Fortunately for commercial cleaners, this means that there is a large and growing market for wood cleaning and wood restoration.

Wood restoration can be as simple as pressure washing the surface with hot water, or as complicated as a multi-step process requiring detergents, degreasers, strippers, brighteners and stain removers.

Before discussing the process, we need to identify what may need repairing. When wood is left to the mercy of the elements, many things can go wrong. UV rays and intense heat from sunlight can begin to break down the wood and lead to decay. Decks are heated unevenly; very warm and dry on top but often wet and cool underneath. Consequently, warping and cracking is a common problem. Finally, insects and fungus are always happy to move into a bare piece of wood and begin munching on it. Pressure treated wood is a handy advancement in technology, but pressure treating will only protect the wood from insects and mold; it will do nothing to prevent weather damage.

Next, you should consider what you really want to offer your customers. Some companies just offer deck power washing services, while others offer cleaning, wood restoration and sealing. Limiting yourself to cleaning can be very convenient. Cleaning can be done in the rain, while staining and sealing obviously are weather dependent. Simply washing is a quicker job, so you will see payment quicker. Finally, soap and water are much easier to store, transport and use than stains, solvents or sealers. Keep in mind, though, that if you only want to offer deck cleaning, you would benefit from a casual partnership with a painter, as homeowners will often ask you to recommend a person to finish the restoration job.

Washing a wooden deck is fairly uncomplicated. To achieve a professional result, though, there are a few things to be aware of.

  • First, you can damage wood with high pressure water, so decking should always be washed using low pressure settings.
  • Next, dirt will settle in lines caused by the wood grain, so the water should be directed along the grain, not across it.
  • Also, a uniform distance and angle should be maintained between the nozzle / rotating spray nozzle and the surface being cleaned.
  • If dirt or film remains on the wood after washing, you should use a soft brush for sweeping it off, then follow up with a good rinse.
  • Finally, the job is not finished until the water uniformly soaks into the wood. Any areas which seem to be shedding water still have some kind of sealant on the surface of the wood, and that sealant will prevent the next coating of stain or sealant from being applied properly.

Finishing a deck usually consists of adding a water repellent, a wood preservative, and a transparent stain. The water repellent repels water, predictably, while the wood preservative protects the wood from mildew, insects or decay. The stain adds color to the wood and is the most obvious cosmetic touch, while also providing a layer of UV protection.

Wood restoration in general and deck finishing specifically are both more complicated than simply washing the deck. If you have not attempted this job before, some research is in order. “Research”, by the way, goes beyond reading the back of the stain container. Detailed information is usually available from major wood care product manufacturers and manufacturer-operated paint stores. While each product will have its own details, here are some basic tips for applying finishing products:

  • Always read the manufacturer’s instructions and try the product out on a “test area” which won’t show.
  • Do not apply finishing products in direct sunlight.
  • Mask surfaces or use spray shields whenever possible. Usually, whatever you are using on the deck is not meant for use on the siding or in the flower bed.
  • Remove drips or overspray while the product is still wet.
  • The usual method of application is to spray the product on, then brush it out.

Because a finished deck will need to be re-finished about every two years, adding that service to your company should provide you with a healthy amount of follow-up business. A deck which is well-maintained should not need complete wood restoration very often, if ever. The good news for your business, though, is that if you restore a deck properly once, yours may be the company that gets to maintain it for years to come.

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