Do your dogs go across your deck to go outside?

oceannaFebruary 18, 2008

To go outside for potty my dogs have to cross my deck and go down the deck stairs. I'm in the Seattle area and it rains here 9 months of the year.

This deck is cedar, and only about 4 years old. I scrubbed it down pretty much to bare wood in August and re-stained it. Look at it after only six months! It looked bad after three. Yes I try to keep the dogs' toenails short, but I'm not perfect. Anyway, mine aren't huge dogs; the largest weighs only about 27 lbs.

Do any of you have this problem? If you've had good luck with certain products I'd sure love to know what they are. This is ridiculous working that hard for such crummy results, and I've had this happen now with two different stains -- one an oil based one that attracted so much algae I had two bad falls last winter, and the other a water based (Cabot).

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In your situation, you might be better off with recycled plastic lumber. The boards are not cheap but you don't need to paint or stain it and it shouldn't scratch up easily. My dogs don't have to cross a deck to get outside but we do have an outdoor wood deck and it does have some of that wear right at the door only. If you have Lowes up there they usually have recycled lumber in stock if you want to take a look at it.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 9:09AM
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Thanks, Quirky, but I can't afford to have the deck rebuilt and it's only four years old. I'm on a DIY budget.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 9:23AM
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My animal advice is not well recieved here, but I am a woodworker/remodler, and I lived in the Tacoma area for two years, so will offer my advice in that area.

QQ's advice to replace the deck boards with composite(Trex is a brand name) material will be the most permanent long term fix. Another option is to use treated lumber which needs no finish and will weather grey.

The dogs have nothing to do with your deck problem. The combination of rain, cool weather, damaged wood(from weather/etc.), and using the wrong finish all contribute to the problem. And I see some existing mold/mildew on the wood which means the stain/finish will not stick.

The other thing I see in the second picture is cracks and splits in the boards where the screws are. That is an indication there will be further problems, especially with the amount of rain you get.

So, best solution, replace the deck boards with composite---Lowe's or Home Depot, or Menards---will have their version of materials----and there should be a few color choices.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 9:27AM
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I'm glad to see handymac's comments. I don't have a deck, but when I looked at the wear it really didn't look like dog damage, it looks more like water damage to me.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 10:29AM
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I saw the DIY info. There is one other possible solution, but it is sometimes difficult for DIYers. It might be possible to powerwash the deck boards to remove the mold/mildew. That is a delicate procedure, since using the powerwasher incorrectly will severely damage the boards.

The bigger problem is the moisture that has been absorbed by the boards. Even when the surface dries out, there is excsee moisture inside the boards, which is covered by any stain/finish---and prevents the finish from adhereing to the wood.

Try this---find a Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, or other dedicated paint store(Not a home improvement store) and see what they recommend. People who live in your climate often have knowlege those of us who live outside your area do not have.

I like SW, for the local service and the fact that company just released some new exterior care products about a year ago.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 10:55AM
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Saw your post and pics on the Decor forum and have to agree with others that the worst wear is from the weather. But, you also have a combination of mold, algae, old solid stain (or paint) on the surface and possible rot under the boards. As handymac mentioned, the joints and screw heads look suspicious.

We always had a wood deck when we lived in Calif and even with our short rainy season we had to clean and restain at least every two years. Like yours, it would wear worst in the areas exposed to the sun and rain while the areas under the eaves looked untouched. I hated that deck as much as I loved it!

Cedar is a very soft wood and I can understand your son not wanting you to use the pressure washer. Judging by the pics, it appears you already have raised grain in several areas.
To get the deck nice again, I think you're going to need to sand the surface and then treat it with something that will strip everything that's left. After that it will need yearly treatments.
If you go to all that trouble I'd suggest laying flagstone, precast concrete, etc. at the bottom of your steps and training the dogs to go there as long as possible. But my guess is that eventually, as the dogs age, they won't be able to use the steps and will probably start using the deck again.

Our current home has a composite deck and I can't say enough good about it. No more chemicals and no more treatments!
I know others recommended replacing your boards with a composite, but it's not that simple. Composite needs more support than wood so the structure underneath your deck will need some 'beefing up'.
Unless all the work needed to restore your deck will be DIY, I suggest you calculate the costs of treatment, sanding, and continued costs of staining, then compare that to the cost of replacing the boards with composite.

Before doing anything, I would have someone climb under the deck, if possible, and check for rot. If you have rot, nothing will adhere to the wood.

BTW, I think rubber mats will just hold more moisture and cause things to rot faster.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 1:14PM
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I totally agree with annz on truly comparing the cost of composite versus maintaining a wood deck. Not to mention the hours of labor you have to put into that wood deck! If you have to take time off work to treat that deck, that's an added expense of DIY.

In Alaska, we had a Trex deck for 6 years before we moved, and we never had to do a darn thing to maintain it. Held up to the 6-month-long snowy winters and the 6-month-long rainy summers like a champ. It was so nice!!!! Best of all, no splinters, so we could walk barefoot on it.

We just bought a new house with a massive wood deck (near Portland, OR), and I am dreading taking care of it, I almost didn't want to buy the house because of it. First chance we get, we're going to replace it with a composite deck.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 5:46PM
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Thanks everyone. I'm retired and on a tiny fixed income. I can investigate the cost, but as I said this deck is only four years old. It's in good shape, and regardless of the photos, there is no raised grain. It's never been pressure washed. I do agree that it's mainly the rain that's the problem.

My stairs rotted out in my last house after about 30 years. I had them replaced with ... well, I dunno what it was, but it wasn't wood. It was very costly and it didn't rot. It started out a pretty wood look but after a few months had faded in the sun/rain to an ugly grey. But it was strong stuff.

At the bottom of the stairs off my deck is... another deck. lol. It seems to weather better than the upper deck and the only reason I can see for that is dog toenails. The dogs don't hang out on the lower deck.

Handymac, you make some good points about our weather. As you know it's wet, wet, and wet. It could be that the deck wasn't sufficiently dried out when I stained it... but I used a water based stain. The thing is with the dogs using it I pretty much have to clean it and stain it in one day.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 10:11PM
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Go to the paint store and see what they have to combat the weather. That is going to be the best thing you can do in your budget situation. But, the existing boards will have to be cleaned and dry before reapplying anything else.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 10:16PM
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Thanks, Handymac. Do they have to be bone dry before applying a water-based? The guy at the hardware store said they don't.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 6:32AM
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Um, hardware store guys are usually pretty good with hardware---the folks at my favorite stores are really good----but they don't know a lot about staining/painting. The Paint store folks know staining/painting, but not much about hardware.

The term bone dry has different values for different folks. From my experience, staining/painting even damp wood with any product is setting up the job for early failure---reason is because applying a stain/paint seals in the moisture under the finish----which will find a way out when the temperature rises. When it does that, it generally pushes up the finish, loosening it. That allows the interior moisture to escape----but, it also destroys the finishes ability to repel the next moisture that comes along, starting a cycle of absorbtion/drying which results in the breakdown of the wood fibers---and the softening and failure of the wood.

Now, there has to be some moisture in wood---up to 12% is not uncommon. And finishes are applied successfully to woods with that or lower moisture content. If you can get the mold/mildew off, plus the old finishes and get the wood to 12% moisture content, I think the correct deck stain AND finish---as recommended by a paint store knowlegeable person will last for a couple years before needing retreatment. But, there will probably not be a apply and forget it product.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 1:44PM
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Hi Oceanna, I agree with Handymac above about your deck. We have a fairly new deck and 4 dogs constantly running across it to go in and out all day long (100, 90, 60, and 30 lbs respectively). If you re-stained it back in August, that's awfully soon for you to see the kind of damage you have now.

We stained ours about 8 months ago and it looks almost as good as when it was first done.

We used Cabot's Austrailian Timber Oil on treated white pine in "Mahogany Flame". It really looks like redwood. However, over on the Deck forum, I know TWP is often recommended.

Your deck shows the kind of wear our old one had (when we had only 1 dog). The mildew is really prohibiting any kind of penetration that would help protect the wood. A few nail scratches shouldn't be removing the finish like that. Your stain should have penetrated deep enough to take care of it.

Our weather isn't quite as harsh here in Middle TN as Seattle, but we do get our fair share of all 4 seasons, including rain and snow (and even a few tornadoes now and then).

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 7:47PM
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My decks are redwood and we choose not to have them treated and let them weather naturally, that was 25 years ago. They look well weathered, have some nicks and and spots here and there, but I like the weathered look. The dogs don't do much noticable damage, but there are cat-scratches here and there, adding character to the appearance.
In Northern California with the intense rainy period in winter and hot, dry weather in summer, the sun is probably the most damaging.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 9:53AM
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Thanks Lilod. I really think with all our rain this wood needs protection. I'm just not sure what to put on it.

To compound the problem one day is about as long as I can keep the critters off it. I'm having some low back/hip/leg problems and to keep them off it I need to go downstairs to let them out each time. Stairs are very hard for me. That's why I'm thinking I have to stay water based. I can clean it and hose it off, but wait two weeks for it to dry after the hosing? I can't do that.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 11:57PM
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