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Preparing Decks for the Fall and Winter Seasons: Essential Tips for Longevity and Safety

This wooden deck area features wooden deck rails and a wooden pergola. There are fallen leaves on the deck, an outdoor eating area, and a swing set in the yard.

Decks are quintessential extensions of our homes, often used as outdoor living spaces for relaxation and entertainment. However, as the cooler months approach, it’s crucial to prepare them for the fall and winter seasons to help safeguard their longevity and safety for you and your loved ones.

Before you dive into the technical details of deck maintenance, let’s begin with the basics.

Properly Store or Cover Outdoor Furniture

Proper storage or covering of outdoor furniture is an often overlooked but vital step in preparing your deck for the colder seasons. Begin by cleaning your furniture to prevent the buildup of dirt and moisture, which can cause damage over time. After cleaning, consider storing smaller items indoors to protect them from the harsh weather conditions. 

For larger pieces that can’t be moved indoors, invest in durable, waterproof covers. They will shield your furniture from rain, snow, and frost to help ensure that they remain in good condition for the warmer months to come. Always secure the covers properly to prevent them from being blown away in windy conditions.

Move Potted Plants Indoors

Plants can suffer from frostbite. Furthermore, heavy pots can put undue pressure on your deck’s wood and can potentially cause damage over time. Relocate them indoors or to a sheltered spot when possible.

Trim Nearby Trees and Plants

Overhanging branches or shrubs can shed leaves and twigs onto your deck. Regular trimming keeps the area clean and reduces deck maintenance chores.

Deck Inspection and Cleaning

This wooden deck has leaves on it. A broom is sweeping them up.

Once your deck is cleared, it’s time for an in-depth inspection and cleaning.

Thoroughly Inspect the Deck for Signs of Wear, Rot, or Damage

Your deck constantly battles the elements over time, so wear and tear are inevitable. Begin your inspection by checking the deck boards and railings for signs of rot or damage. Examine the wood carefully for any soft or discolored spots, particularly in areas that tend to remain damp or are in contact with fasteners.

Next, pay attention to the structural components of the deck, such as posts, joists, and beams. Any signs of decay or separation in these areas could indicate potential safety hazards. Loose or corroded fasteners can also compromise the deck’s stability, so be sure to check and replace them as necessary.

Remember, early detection of any problems can save you expensive repairs down the line. If you find any major issues during your inspection, it’s wise to seek professional help to ensure the deck’s longevity and safety.

Enhance the Structural Integrity to Withstand Harsh Weather Conditions

Start by inspecting the overall stability of the deck. Loose fixtures can pose safety risks. Ensure all screws, nails, and other fasteners are tight and in place.

If there’s noticeable movement when you walk across it, this could indicate an issue with the support posts or joists. Consider working with a professional to rectify these issues, as they could pose significant safety risks.

Next, take a look at the deck boards. Any signs of warping, cracking, or splitting may indicate that they are succumbing to the elements and need to be fixed or replaced. If a replacement is needed, opt for high-quality, weather-resistant materials, such as pressure-treated wood or composite decking, for replacements. These materials resist rot and insect damage and can help ensure the longevity of your deck.

Clear Debris and Clean the Deck

During the fall season, leaves, twigs, and debris tend to gather on your deck. If not taken care of, they can trap moisture and encourage the growth of mold, mildew, and stains. Regularly sweep the deck to keep it clean. Using a mild detergent and water, scrub the deck gently to remove stubborn dirt, stains, or mildew.

To make cleaning and maintenance easier, as well as prevent debris accumulation, consider sealing your deck. It’s a practical way to keep your deck in good shape!

Checking on Moisture Control

Water is a deck’s enemy. From warping wood to encouraging mildew growth, unchecked moisture can wreak havoc.

Ensure Proper Drainage and Gutter Maintenance to Prevent Water Pooling Near the Deck

Proper drainage is crucial to prevent water from pooling around your deck, which could lead to rot and damage over time. 

Start by inspecting the area around your deck after a rainstorm to see if water is accumulating. If it is, you might need to adjust the landscaping or add a drainage system to direct water away from the deck.

Gutters play a vital role in directing rainwater away from your deck. However, if the gutters are clogged with leaves, twigs, or other debris, they can overflow and cause water to spill onto your deck. Regular gutter cleaning, especially during the fall when leaf fall is at its peak, is key to preventing this issue. Furthermore, consider installing gutter guards to reduce the amount of debris that can accumulate in your gutters.

By ensuring proper drainage and maintaining your gutters, you can significantly reduce the risk of water damage to your deck, making it a safer and more enjoyable space for you and your family throughout the year.

Staining and Sealing

This image shows an up-close view of wood decking.

Inspect and Reseal any Worn-out Sealants or Stains

The sealants and stains on your deck act as a protective barrier that shields the wood from the ravages of weather and wear. Regular inspection is crucial to make sure these defenses are intact. Look out for any areas where the sealant or stain looks faded, cracked, or peeling.

Once you’ve identified worn-out areas, it’s time to reseal or restain. First, clean the area thoroughly and let it dry. Then, apply a fresh coat of high-quality sealant or stain, making sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results. 

Choose Appropriate Stains for Your Specific Decking Material


ZAR® Deck & Siding Clear Waterproof Wood Sealer is the ideal solution for safeguarding a deck during the harsh winter months. It creates a clear protective shield that not only waterproofs but also defends against UV light and mildew, crucial for winter protection. Its innovative formulation accentuates wood’s innate grain and texture to help prevent undesirable winter-related graying and to help preserve its original color.

With its user-friendly application process and swift-drying formula, this sealer becomes an indispensable and time-saving tool for winter deck preparations. While its primary focus is decks, its versatile nature means it can also be applied to siding and other outdoor wood surfaces, for all-round winter protection for your exterior wooden structures. 


ZAR Deck & Siding Semi-Transparent Stain is an outstanding choice for those preparing their decks for wintery conditions. Designed to infuse a deep color while also preserving the wood’s innate grain and texture, this superior stain penetrates deep into the wood for excellent adhesion that guards against peeling and blistering — typical during colder months. It provides excellent protection against UV rays, snow, and icy rain.

With added resistance to winter-prone mildew formation, this stain emerges as a durable, practical, and long-lasting winter protection solution, not just for your deck, but also for siding and other exterior wood installations.


ZAR Solid Color Deck & Siding Coating is the ultimate selection for those looking to winterproof their decks with a solid color finish. Tailored for the cold season, this top-tier coating hides the wood grain, yet highlights the texture, to deliver a consistently beautiful finish perfect for winter aesthetics. Its innovative formula ensures formidable adhesion, an essential trait to guard against winter-induced peeling and blistering.

Solid Restorative Coating Option

ZAR NuDECK® Wood and Concrete Restorative Coating is a top-notch solution for those aiming to restore and protect their decks in preparation for the harsh winter months. Serving as an ideal alternative to replacement, this revolutionary product is designed to repair damaged or weather-beaten wood and concrete surfaces to effectively save time, effort, and expenses. 

Its thick, resin-rich formula fills in cracks, locks down splinters, and creates a non-slip finish to make your deck safer and more comfortable for use in the icy and snowy season.

Snow and Ice Removal During Winter

While snow might seem harmless, it can be damaging to decks.

Safe Practices for Snow Removal Without Damaging the Deck

Always use a plastic shovel instead of metal, and shovel in the direction of the boards.

Certain de-icing materials can be harmful to your deck. It’s wise to avoid rock salt or any de-icing product that contains chloride, as they can discolor your deck surface and corrode metal hardware. Instead, use non-abrasive, chloride-free products that are safe for wood or composite decking.

You can also use sand to improve grip on icy spots but remember to clean it up once the ice melts to avoid any unwanted grit and grime. Implementing these practices can help to ensure that your deck remains in good condition through the winter.

Consider Heated Mats or Cables for Snow Melting in Specific Areas

Portable heat mats for wooden decks are a valuable addition to your winter maintenance toolkit. These specially designed mats efficiently melt snow and ice without the need for harsh chemicals or physical removal. They are safe for all deck types, easy to use, and can be placed in high-traffic areas for safe and dry passages during the winter months. 

Further Deck Protection: Deck Coverings and Enclosures

For added protection, consider structural enhancements.

Add a Pergola or Awning to Provide Protection from Rain and Snow

Installing a pergola or awning can provide an excellent barrier against winter elements and offer significant protection for your deck. A pergola, typically a sturdy, open-roof structure can be enhanced with a retractable canopy or cover for increased weather resistance. Equipped with weather-resistant materials, pergolas not only protect the deck from snow and ice but also create an aesthetically pleasing space for relaxation or entertainment.

Alternatively, an awning — a roof-like shelter extending over the deck — can offer more substantial protection. Awnings come in various types, including stationary, retractable, and portable. They protect the deck from direct snowfall and can reduce the potential for ice buildup and water damage.

Both pergola and awnings can be outfitted with side panels for additional insulation and protection from wind-blown snow. These enhancements not only protect your deck from winter weather but also extend outdoor living opportunities to make your deck a versatile space no matter the season.

Consider Enclosing the Deck for Extended Usability During the Winter

Another substantial structural enhancement to consider for winter deck protection is enclosing your deck entirely. Enclosed decks, also known as sunrooms or three-season rooms, are an excellent way to enjoy the beauty of winter while keeping your deck shielded from harsh weather conditions.

Choosing to enclose your deck will not only protect the deck’s surface but can also provide an additional living space that can be utilized all year round. This space can be heated during chilly winter days to allow you to enjoy the serenity of the winter landscape in comfort. 

Ensure Proper Lighting and Visibility During Shorter Days

This deck railing has snow on it. There is also a deck light on the post.

Visibility is a crucial factor to consider for winter deck safety. Shorter days and longer nights mean your deck can often be shrouded in darkness during winter months. Therefore, having a well-lit deck is not just a matter of aesthetics, but also of safety and functionality.

Use Slip-resistant Mats or Coatings

Slip-resistant mats or coatings will help prevent accidental slips and falls, especially when the deck is wet or icy.

Work with ZAR to Properly Stain and Seal Decks in Preparation for the Fall and Winter Months

Ensure your outdoor deck remains a safe, comfortable, and appealing space regardless of the wintry conditions. Be proactive in protecting your investment from harsh weather elements by adopting our recommended best practices. Don’t wait until the cold season is upon us. 

Reach out to ZAR today and let us help you prepare your deck for the fall and winter months. Our team of experts is ready to guide you through selecting and applying the right stain and sealant to make sure your deck stays beautiful and durable throughout the cold season.

Contact us today to locate a retail store near you!