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Decking: Finish or leave unfinished?

Decks are becoming a popular choice,  but if staining or sanding aren't something you're willing to do to keep the deck looking sharp, you need to carefully consider your choice of deck material. You need to decide what materials to use and whether or not to finish the surface of your deck or leave it unfinished.


A new deck can add comfort, relaxation and increase the size of indoor/outdoor living space for the family to enjoy. But before you start work or purchase materials, you need to consider the maintenance and upkeep of the project for years down the road.

Decks are extremely versatile: they can be an outdoor living room, a kitchen, a spa with hot tub or an entertainment area for friends and family. There are a variety of material options for decks, and these materials all differ in the upkeep they require.

Synthetic or composite deck materials do not require finishing, which leaves homeowners without the option to change the look of the deck over time to match a new house colour, new outdoor furniture, landscaping or just to give the deck a fresh look. But a composite deck is a product that requires very little maintenance other than cleaning to help control mould and remove dirt.

Decks made from timber, however, give homeowners flexibility to match the deck to the area surrounding it. Most wood species have natural preservative oils that preserve the wood, even in extreme weather, allowing homeowners a choice to let the wood weather naturally. And if the mood strikes, homeowners can change the colour of the deck by sanding and refinishing.

Finishing wood decks is another option, and gives homeowners just about any choice in colour they want. Here are a few tips for maintaining a timber deck.

* On a new deck that is to be sealed, apply the sealer to all sides of the deck boards before installation. This step helps prevent moisture penetration into the wood, which could compromise any finish.

* Make certain the deck is clean, completely dry and free from mould or mildew. Woodoc Wood Restorer is recommended for treating mould and mildew.

Whether you decide to leave the surface of your deck unfinished, or apply a stain, sealer or water-based varnish, now that the surface is prepared you need to make a decision.

Having previously sealed my deck for a few years, last year I made the decision not to seal but rather let the deck age naturally. It looks awful. The surface is dull, it stains easily and, even thought I apply wood protection, the wood is dry and I am seriously considering re-applying a deck sealer or dressing product.

It all boils down to the type of wood species used to finish a deck. Since mine was done with Saligna, this isn't a wood that ages nicely. There are various other wood species that are perfect for unfinished decks: Garapa weathers to the silver grey colour of teak, as do Balau (show above and below) and Iroko.

If you decide to leave your deck unfinished, regular application of a protective coating will extend the lifespan of the wood. Woodoc offer an extensive range of products that nourish the wood and ensure that wood does not dry out or rot.

Whether you choose to let your deck weather naturally, or finish it to the exact look to match your home, it's important to take into consideration any future maintenance provided by decking materials before you begin the project.