6 Tips To Prep Your Deck For Winter

If you live in a cold-weather climate, prepping your house and yard for winter can feel overwhelming. You'll find list after lengthy list of to-dos and recommendations that make you feel like you're falling hopelessly behind.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be this way. At DecksDirect, it's our mission to help you spend more time enjoying your deck - and less time maintaining it. In that spirit, we've put together a quick and easy list of 6 things you can do this fall to prepare your deck for the winter months and set up your deck for long-term low-maintenance stability.

A Trex deck with rocking chairs overlooking the fall colors

Table of Contents

#1: Sweep Away Leaves

A deck with a smattering of leaves on its surface during the fall season

The first step is keeping your deck surface clear of fallen leaves. This can be a bit of an ongoing task throughout the fall, but not a labor-intensive one. A quick sweeping once a week will clear off any new leaves.

If rain is in the forecast, try to get your sweeping done before the showers hit. Wet leaves will be harder to sweep away - plus, they can bleed into your deck boards or cause other damage.

It's especially important to ensure leaves don't get trapped underneath the winter snow on your deck. Why?

  • Colorful leaves can stain your deck boards
  • Decaying leaves can cause rot, especially on wood deck boards
  • Soggy, decaying leaves are a pain to clean up in the spring when snow melts

Pro tip: Keep an outdoor broom handy throughout the fall so you can do a quick deck sweep when you see leaves without needing to run out to the garage or basement to get your broom.

#2: Clean Your Deck Boards

With your deck surface clear of leaves and debris, now is the perfect time to give your deck boards a quick cleaning.

For Select Composite & PVC Deck Boards:

If you have a composite or PVC deck, cleaning is a breeze:

  • Step 1: mix warm water and a mild soap (like dish soap)
  • Step 2: brush off your deck with the soapy water and a soft-bristled brush
  • Step 3: rinse your deck immediately with fresh, clean water

If your deck uses TimberTech decking, you can use TimberTech's specialized DeckCleaner solution. Just make sure you have modern, capped boards in the TimberTech Composite or TimberTech Advanced PVC collections. Don't use TimberTech DeckCleaner on older, uncapped deck boards.

TimberTech's Deck Cleaner for capped composite and PVC deck boards

The cleaning process is pretty much the same as above:

  • Step 1: mix warm water and TimberTech DeckCleaner
  • Step 2: scrub off your deck with cleaning solution using a medium to stiff nylon brush for composite decking or a stiff, natural-fiber brush for PVC decking
  • Step 3: rinse your deck immediately with fresh, clean water and let it dry

For Wood Deck Boards:

For wood boards, the cleaning process is almost identical - except that you can use a stiffer brush without risking scratching your deck boards.

  • Step 1: mix warm water and a mild soap (like dish soap)
  • Step 2: brush off your deck with the soapy water and a stiff-bristled brush
  • Step 3: rinse your deck immediately with fresh, clean water

Wood will inherently weather over time unless you stain and seal it religiously. If your wood deck has faded over time, you can return some of its original glory using DeckWise's Wood Deck Cleaner and Brightener.

A two-step cleaning and brightening solution for worn wood decks

This two-part treatment cleans, then brightens the wood of your deck. Each application comes in a powder that you mix with water, then scrub into your wood. Rinse it with fresh water and let it dry. DeckWise Wood Deck Cleaner and Brightener works best before applying an oil finish or stain to lock in the new, brightened finish.

#3: Invest in a Plastic Shovel

Many winter snow shovels feature metal edges to help cut through ice. That's all well and good for a driveway - but that sharp metal can wreak havoc on your deck boards.

Don't ever use a metal shovel on wood, composite, or PVC deck boards. The sharp edge can cut, scratch, or scrape your boards. Instead, invest in a plastic snow shovel that you can use to clear snow off your deck.

One helpful tip: keep your plastic shovel near your deck so it's easier to quickly clear snow when you see it pile up. Lifting large, heavy snowdrifts is a pain - shoveling more often will keep each shoveling session quicker and easier on your back.

Learn more: What De-Icers Are Safe For Your Deck?

#4: Trim Nearby Trees and Bushes

A deck with nearby plants trimmed and prepped for fall and winter

If your deck has overhanging tree branches, fall is the perfect time to trim them away. If a branch breaks under the weight of snow or the push of wind, it can damage your deck or home. Being proactive in the fall will prevent costly repairs come spring.

Similarly, if you have shrubs, bushes, or other plants near your deck, trim them to leave at least 12 inches between the deck and the plants. This will keep your deck clear of any outgrowths that could get pushed up against your deck in the snow or rain - prime candidates to stain or discolor your deck.

A deck with a tree growing close to its railing

#5: Inspect Your Deck for Any Future Issues

A beautiful, well-kept wood deck railing

While you're doing your fall cleaning, you can save lots of time and future headaches by looking over your deck for any potential issues. We recommend inspecting a few key areas:

The Outside Perimeter Of Your Deck

  • Walk around the outside of your deck and look for anything that's rotting or cracking
  • Check your deck footings and lightly shake them to make sure they're still secure
  • Check the hardware that connects your beams to your posts, if you can see it
  • Make sure your stair stringers are still securely attached to the edge of your deck

Under The Deck

  • Go under your deck and look up at the deck boards. Check the underside for any insect damage, rot, mold, or mildew.
  • Check that your ledger board (along your house) is attached securely to your rim joists (the outside joists of your deck frame that run perpendicular to your house)
  • Look for any rust on the screws or hardware holding your frame together

Your Deck Surface

  • Walk along your deck surface and listen for any pops, creaks, or unusual give in your deck boards
  • Look for any look nails, screws, or fasteners
  • Check each section of railing for any give or any rusting fasteners

Learn more: How To Check And Inspect Your Deck?

If anything in your inspection is amiss, you'll want to start looking into replacement or repairs, either before the snow falls or right away when spring hits. Which leads us to tip #6…

#6: Plan Ahead for Next Season's Projects

It's always better to be proactive when it comes to house projects. If your inspection turns up something you need to repair (or if you have an upgrade you'd like to make on your deck) the fall and winter are great seasons to plan ahead.

If you're in a warm-weather climate without snow, you may even be able to book a contractor to complete your job in the winter season. If you're in a snowy climate, you can set up a contractor ahead of time, before their spring weekends get booked.

A drawn-out deck plan with a pencil and measuring tape nearby

The "offseason" gives you time to research and plan to figure out what projects fit your budget and your goals for the next year.

If you want help planning, you can call our team of experienced deck project planners at 1-888-824-5316 and we'll learn about how you use your deck and how you envision it looking - then we'll help you plan a personalized deck that fits your timeline and budget!

Here are some fun before & after images of customers who worked with DecksDirect:

Before

A large, stately house with old wood deck railing

After

A gorgeous deck where the old wood railing balusters have been replaced by sleek cable railing kits

Before

An old split-rail wood fence in the snow

After

A brand new wood railing with cable between the wood posts and rails

Learn more about the basics of deck framing and building in our Deck Framing Guide and learn deck parts and terminology in the DecksDirect Glossary of Deck Terms and Lingo.

Browse more deck design and railing style notes to upgrade your backyard space and deck in the DecksDirect Railing Style Guide: the quickest way to learn if your home is more suited for a classic aluminum deck railing or a showstopping cable rail setup.

The more you know, the better your deck and backyard projects will be! Whether you're looking at a brand new project, a deck update, or a style refresh, give our deck project planners a call at 1-888-824-5316 or send us an email at hello@decksdirect.com. Our experienced team will help you get the information, products, and tools you need for an awesome deck completely personalized to your needs!