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Question and Answer ArticleNo-paint Deck

By Cherie Parker
Published: March 1, 2007
Photo by Mark Rasmussen,
Q: We have a seasonal cabin in the Sequoias that we visit often in the winter. It is nearly impossible to keep the exposed area clear of snow, and the snow does a number on the painted wood deck. Is there a trick to having the deck stay painted for more than one season? We have talked about installing a new non-wood deck to reduce maintenance, but that would mean rebuilding. Plus, the material is costly. Any suggestions?
– Sharyn Flavin; via e-mail

A: Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any magic technique that will keep a wood deck painted for more than one season in situations like yours. If your deck is resisting rot and is in generally sound structural condition, then a yearly paint job might just be something you have to put up with.
But if your biggest priority is reducing maintenance, then yes, composite materials may be the answer. Think of it much the same way as installing vinyl siding on a house: You’re done with painting and most maintenance, but it won’t have exactly the same look as wood.
Composite decking is made from a blend of wood fibers or sawdust and recycled plastic or other plastic material. Different manufacturers use different combinations of wood and plastic as well as different wood and plastic components. (Vinyl decks, while not a composite, are often marketed alongside composite decks because both are manufactured lumber products.)
We talked to the folks at Tamko, one of the manufacturers of composite decking, and they said a composite deck could be ideal for you. Mick Whelan from Tamko points out that many of the new composite materials – such as the company’s EverGrain – do not need to be painted and thus would resolve your yearly painting headache. Whelan says that composite decking offers “the natural beauty of real wood, but [it] is not susceptible to rotting, splintering, splitting and termite damage. While the material may cost more initially, composite decking is low maintenance and typically lasts much longer than treated wood.” Most composite manufacturers provide multi-year limited warranties.
A less expensive route is to install a vinyl deck cover on top of the wood deck.
If you’re set on a wood deck, you might consider stripping off the current paint and staining the wood. Or build a new cedar deck and stain it. Stained wood still needs some upkeep, but not quite as frequently as paint.
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