How to Protect Your Wood Deck This Winter

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how to protect wood deck this winter

You likely spent thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars installing a wooden deck on your property. We don’t blame you for wanting to keep it clean and well-maintained year-round, even when you’re not using it for personal enjoyment or entertaining guests. 

Taking care of your wooden deck isn’t just about preserving its appearance – it’s about ensuring the wood lasts for many years to come. A long-lived deck starts with proper protection, especially during the off-season. 

In Southern California, we don’t tend to deal with serious cold weather conditions like snow and ice. Still, that doesn’t mean our wood decks are entirely safe during the winter. Although the winter sun’s UV rays are typically lower than summer’s, they can still cause sunburns – which means they can still damage your wood deck over time.

The bottom line is that it pays to be conscious about preserving your deck, and that starts with defending it from weather-related wear and tear. If you live in SoCal, don’t forget about your deck during the winter. Instead, follow these five steps to protect it. 

Step 1: Cover the Deck If You Can

Wooden deck cover

The first part of learning how to protect a wood deck is simply limiting its exposure to the elements. When you cover a deck, you shield it from a wide variety of damaging factors, including: 

  • Rain 
  • Sunlight (UV rays)
  • Harsh wind
  • Hail storms
  • Dead leaves/debris  

Deck and patio covers are very popular throughout most of California. A sturdy covering provides much-needed shade in the warmer months and protection during the cooler months. An added bonus: a professionally installed cover can actually make your deck look nicer, too. 

Don’t want to deal with a deck cover all year round? Look into shades that can be rolled out during certain months and removed during others. That way, you can protect your wood deck without sacrificing your sunbathing time during the warmer months.

Although a nice deck cover will likely set you back between $1,000 and $10,000, that price pales in comparison to the expense of conducting massive (repeated) deck repairs. Think of it as an upfront investment that will help you spend less on deck services in the future. 

Step 2: Clean Your Deck Every Season

Deck cleaning all season

Our next winter deck care tip is to clean its surfaces before and after the season. Like most things in your home, your deck’s appearance is best preserved when it is kept clean and free of tarnishing debris. 

We typically recommend that homeowners conduct a thorough cleaning in October or November before California’s temperatures start to drop below the mid-fifties. This allows you to enter the winter season with a fresh deck that’s devoid of any caked-on dirt, sticky fallen leaves, or other potentially damaging factors. 

When washing your deck, we have a couple of dos – and a couple of do-NOTs – to share with you. 

Winter Deck Cleaning Dos 

  • Start by wetting the entire surface
  • Choose a safe cleaning solution 
  • Apply the solution with a brush or power washer
  • Get into all of the nooks and crannies
  • Rinse the deck thoroughly afterward

Winter Deck Cleaning Don’ts 

  • Use any cleaning product without researching it
  • Apply harsh chemicals that can damage the wood
  • Pour chlorine bleach onto the wood 

Ignoring any of these do-nots can quickly result in a discolored wood deck. If you have any questions about cleaning your outdoor deck, contact an expert who can guide you toward the right product. Better yet, schedule a professional deck cleaning that’s sure to be safe and thorough. 

Step 3: Inspect for Problems Every Few Months

Wood deck inspections

If you truly want to learn how to protect a wood deck during the winter, you can’t forget to inspect it. You might not be using your outdoor entertainment spaces much when it’s cold outside, but you still need to check for problems at least once every few months.

Some of the key issues to watch for include…

  • Rusted or loose nails/screws
  • Rotted wood
  • Splits or cracks in the wood
  • Mildew or mold growth 
  • Warped deck boards 
  • Serious discoloration/fading 
  • Signs of pest infestations/activity 

Many of your deck’s most significant problems can go unnoticed, especially if you’re not taking the time to actively search for potential issues. Take at least 15 minutes to really look around and note any signs of damage. 

To go above and beyond, schedule regular deck inspections with restoration professionals who actually know how to identify (and remedy) red flags. 

Step 4: Occasionally Sand and Brighten the Deck

Hand sand wooden deck

If you’ve recently cleaned and rinsed your wood deck in preparation for the winter, you might notice that it looks a little dull. Don’t worry – there are ways to restore your deck’s original color and shine.

Start by using a hand sander (not a harsh power sander) on the deck. This part requires some patience and can take several days, but it’s the best way to prepare your deck for brightening or sealing products. We especially recommend sanding old cedar or redwood decks. 

Once you’ve sanded the floor, visit your local hardware store for a wood brightener. This is simply a product that enhances the natural color and beauty of the deck’s wood. It is not a replacement for a wood stain or sealant but rather an add-on that allows both to last longer.

You can apply your deck’s wood brightener using a pump-up sprayer, paint roller, or brush. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s directions carefully and let the brightener sit for an adequate amount of time before rinsing it off.

Step 5: Apply a Quality Sealant

Apply sealant to your deck

Applying a deck sealer might be the last recommendation on our list, but it certainly isn’t the least important. Using a quality sealant product can make a huge difference in your deck’s lifespan and appearance, especially after the winter months. 

Once the deck is dry, you’ll want to treat it with the right kind of sealant. This will likely depend on the type of wood used in your deck, as some sealants alter the colors or grains of certain woods.

There are two main kinds of wood deck sealants: 

  1. Topical finishes, which stay on the surface
  2. Penetrating sealers, which seep into the deck’s cracks and crevices

We recommend penetrating sealants for most decks, as they offer a more “natural” look. However, the proper sealant for one deck might not be the right one for another, so it’s always a good idea to seek a professional’s opinion before applying any product.

Although applying a sealant isn’t necessarily a complicated project, it is time-consuming and labor-intense. That’s why many Southern California homeowners choose to hire a professional deck sealing crew to get the job done. Doing so ensures that the sealant will be applied correctly and offer true protection for months to come.

Concerned About the State of Your Wood Deck?

Winters can be hard on our outdoor spaces, including wood decks. If you feel that the lack of use or cold weather conditions has caused problems for your deck, it’s time to reach out to our team for help.

Teak & Deck Professionals is here to assist SoCal homeowners with a variety of deck-related maintenance tasks, including cleaning, brightening, sealing, and restoring. If you’ve noticed that your deck looks gray or dilapidated, reach out to our team online today.

For more questions about how to protect a wood deck, you can also email us at

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Drew Isaacman

Drew Isaacman is the owner and founder of Teak & Deck Professionals, a leading restoration company specializing in teak, exotic wood, concrete, and stone. With a passion for preserving outdoor assets, Drew has built a team of skilled professionals dedicated to providing exceptional service to clients in San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles. His expertise in wood restoration and refinishing, combined with his commitment to customer satisfaction, has earned Teak & Deck Professionals a reputation for excellence in the industry. Drew's dedication to protecting and revitalizing outdoor spaces ensures that clients can enjoy their valuable assets for years to come.