Preparing Your Deck & Patio for Winter

A patio covered with snow

A deck or patio is a great addition to any home. Creating comfortable spaces for spending more time outdoors is easy once you have a solid base to start with. But winter, in particular, can be hard on the patio, even if it’s made with modern materials like composite decking. A few extra steps to prepare the deck or patio space for the rigors of winter can go a long way to prevent damage.

Keep the Deck Well-swept

A man sweeping leaves off a deck

Removing all the solid debris on the deck before the winter temperatures set in is essential to a strong wood or composite surface. Leaves, twigs, and other debris left in place over the winter tend to create dark stains that are hard to remove even with bleaching treatments and pressure washing. Sweep the deck at least once a week throughout the fall until leaves and other tree wastes stop falling onto it. Letting leaves build up over the fall will only cause stains and discoloration that can worsen over the winter, even if you sweep eventually.

Avoid Shoveling When Possible

A woman shoveling snow off a deck

It’s easy to assume that the snow slowly melting on your deck is causing damage to the material. However, it should be fine to leave snow in place even as it melts if you properly sealed your deck before winter set in. Shoveling is best avoided whenever possible since even plastic snow shovels can damage the surface. Use a broom and aim to sweep the snow away when there are three inches or less accumulated if it’s necessary to keep a path free for walking. On decks and patios where access is needed over the winter, consider snow accumulation a harmless event.

Repair Damage

A lifted deck board

Don’t let rotted, cracked, or otherwise damaged boards stay on the deck throughout the winter, either. A deck needs to be in good structural condition from bottom to top to keep even more damage from occurring over the winter. Damage tends to compound quickly after it begins in a small way and is ignored for a few seasons. Start with inspecting the underside of the deck, including the posts and the joists, if you can access the area. Even relatively light damage to boards or railings should be repaired before winter temperatures arrive.

Apply Sealant or Paint as Needed

A person paiting a deck with a brush

Assessing the quality of the protective coating on the deck is an essential part of winter preparations. If it’s been more than 2 to 3 years since you last sealed the deck in some way, it’s likely time to do it again. Even coatings rated to last 5 years or more should be checked each fall to ensure they do not need to be replaced yet. Peeling paint or coatings should be sanded away before you apply a new layer.

Wash off Dirt and Mildew

A man cleaning a deck with a brush and soapy water

Even if the sealant is intact and doesn’t need replacing this year, the deck deserves a thorough cleaning to keep dirt from feeding mildew all winter long. If there’s visible mildew already on the surface of the deck, you definitely need a deep cleaning in the fall. Most dirt deposits can be cleaned off just with a hose and a sprayer attachment with a little dish soap in it. For more stubborn mildew deposits, try a low-pressure washer.

Put Away Decorations and Furniture

Covered patio furniture sitting on a snowy deck

Deck and patio furniture often claims to be tough enough to stay out in the elements all year round. However, all materials will last longer and look better if stored in an enclosed and covered environment over the winter. Don’t underestimate the fading and mildew encouraging effects of daily sun exposure and occasional rain and snow fall. At the very least, make sure all cushions and other fabric decorations are put away for the winter. The garage or a covered carport should be enough to keep the furniture clean, but make sure to rinse the pieces off to remove dirt that could feed mildew.

With a little extra work each fall, your deck or patio can emerge from the winter looking just as good as it did in the fall. Invest in the next year of outdoor gatherings and cookouts by taking care of your patio with a little winterizing effort in the right season.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.