The coldest days of winter have arrived, and we’re starting to see some real winter weather. That means it’s time to talk about what you need to know about caring for your patios and decks this time of year. Winter patio and wood deck maintenance does not usually require a great deal of work. Still, there are a few things to know to protect your deck and make sure your outdoor spaces look great when spring arrives.

Before we get into the basics of winter maintenance, it’s essential to know what type of material you are working with, as this will change how you care for your space. Concrete patios and walkways will have different needs than composite decking and wood decking, and each will react differently to products and tools, so keep this in mind as you form your plan. 

What to Know About Snow

The first thing that most people want to know is whether it’s ok to let snow build up on their decks and patios. Aside from clearing a path from your back door when it’s necessary, it’s perfectly fine to allow snow to accumulate. If you’re worried about the weight, remember that most structures are built to accommodate the weight of several people. Snow will rarely accumulate several hundred pounds at once in our part of the world!

If your deck is very old, or you’re not sure whether it’s been built to code (perhaps you purchased the home with the deck and the previous owners did not leave details), you may want to have it inspected to be sure it can stand up to the weight of snow–and people!

When it comes to natural wood decking, where you may want to keep snow from building up on the deck surface. This is because natural wood can absorb water as snow melts, and it may begin melting from the bottom up and leave your deck in contact with water for an extended period. 

Shovels & Tools

If you decide that snow removal is necessary, it’s crucial to choose the right tools for the job. For patios and walkways, most basic show shovels will be fine. However, wood and composite decking can become gouged or damaged from metal shovels, so we recommend plastic blades for large accumulations or a soft broom for smaller amounts. It’s also important to push the snow along the length of your boards to avoid chipping any corners. If you have one, a leaf blower will also work great for light, fluffy snow and will have your deck and patio cleared in no time.

What About Ice Melt?

De-icing salt and ice melt is usually acceptable for patios and walkways. However, be sure to choose a product that is safe for concrete and also will not be harmful to your lawn, plants, or pets. 

You’ll get the best results for a natural wood deck if you avoid ice melting products altogether. However, in some cases, especially if you must walk out on your deck and it’s dangerously icy, some products will be necessary. Rock salt, or calcium chloride-based products, should be avoided entirely as it can dry out the wood and cause it to deteriorate. Magnesium chloride or potassium chloride is less harsh and safer to use on wood, as long as the wood has been water-sealed. 

To de-ice a composite deck, check with the manufacturer as each will have their own recommendations for whether de-icing products can be used and which ones to choose. Generally speaking, de-icing salt and ice melts are safe for composite decking, but stay away from any that have color added as they may stain your deck. 

No matter which type of decking you have or products you have used, it’s a good idea to sweep away any remaining product once your surfaces have been cleared of ice. Then, rinse off your decks and walkways as soon as temperatures are above freezing. 

Wood Deck Maintenance

For cold, dry winters, there is not much that you need to do to keep your decks and patios in top shape while you wait for spring. When snow and ice arrive, it’s important to be gentle with any snow removal processes. Be sure to check that any ice-melt products you choose are compatible with your products, plants, and pets, and spring will be here in no time. 

If you’re not sure what’s right for your deck or whether it’s ready to stand up to a harsh winter, we can help. Contact Mitchell Construction for all your winter deck maintenance needs!