As tough as decking is, it will of course begin to show signs of wear over time. However, when taken care of, it’s estimated that wooden decking can typically last around 30 years. Pressure-treated timber, or composite decking kits, can potentially last around 50 years!
Taking care of wooden decking mostly entails keeping it clean with regular sweeping, ridding it of dust and dirt. Removing debris, such as rotting leaves, reduces the build-up of mould while keeping the wood free of pests and insects that can cause further damage.
It’s advisable to give decking some kind of treatment to prolong the life of the wood, although finding the best decking treatment might depend on manufacturer’s advice, as well as your own preferences.
Substances such as decking oil will help to protect against moisture damage by giving the wood a greater resistance to water, effectively sealing it. As the decking ages, applying decking oil also helps to replace the wood’s own natural oils and resins, which gives the timber something of its old colour and tone.
Another benefit of decking oil is that it doesn’t crack, as it expands and contracts with the wood. Most oils and stains in the UK are designed for broadly available timber decking, however woods such as Garupa, Merbau and Teak may require specialist treatments.
There are other decking treatments available, including paint and decking stain. These also help to protect and preserve the wood, but in different ways.
As we’ve already covered, decking oil is a treatment that seeps into the wood to restore some of its colour and provide moisture resistance. But what of the other options – how do they compare?
Firstly, decking oils and decking stains are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. They can both ‘stain’ the wood and change its colour, but they do this very differently.
Unlike decking oil, which soaks into the wood, decking stain creates a coating. There might be some loss of the grain of the wood because of this coating, but not too much. Decking paint however is thicker, so you’re more likely to lose the detail of the grain.
Aside from these surface-level comparisons, there are other benefits and shortfalls to each, so let’s look at these a bit closer.
As mentioned before, the manufacturer might already have clear guidance on the best options for preserving your wooden decking. Following this guidance is the best way to ensure the longevity of your decking and to keep from voiding warranty protections.
Despite this, here are some typical pros and cons to using decking oil, stain and paint:
It’s good practice to consider a new coat of decking oil or stain once a year, but this does vary from place to place, as weather conditions across the country might be vastly different. As a guide, look for the following to work out if a new treatment is needed:
Flaking or peeling
Large spots of mould or algae
Water soaking into the wood
These are all signs that the layer of treatment has either worn too thin or gone entirely, and the wood is now compromised by moisture and the elements. It’s a good idea to have an inspection at least once a season, or whenever you need to clean your decking.
Wait around 30 to 45 days (depending on the product) after new treated timber decking is installed. The treatment has to ‘settle’ and won’t always take decking oil. To test, add a little to a small corner of the decking. If the liquid forms beads instead of soaking in it’s not ready. Always check manufacturer’s guidance.
This is a question often asked by those who are concerned about losing the natural patina of their decking wood. It’s a reasonable concern to have, especially if you’ve invested time in finding the right wood based on look and tone. However, the key here is the word ‘investment’. By not treating wooden decking, this can affect the longevity of the deck, opening it up to rot, warping or cracks that might be avoidable otherwise.