This is one of the most common questions that can’t be answered without local knowledge and deck specifics. Even in the most hostile or hospitable climates, six months may be overkill and six years may be negligent. But the difference in sealing frequency and typical expert advice ranges to such an extent that people often become more confused than when they started. There is no holy grail manual for deck sealing, but here’s some practical advice that will help you narrow the viable options for the frequency of your deck sealing.
Deck Maintenance & Deck Sealing by Climate
Mild and Dry (Los Angeles, CA): Although the climate of SoCal is pleasant for wood decks, don’t take your sealant for granted. Either spend the money for dependable, multi-year protection or do it on-the-fly each year.
Mild and Wet (Seattle, WA): More than annual rainfall, high moisture levels mean your deck may not have the chance to completely dry for weeks at a time. And that’s bad news. Unless you go all out with your deck sealing, plan on doing it every year.
Hot and Dry (Phoenix, AZ): As long as you buy a quality sealant and do it right, you can probably get away with every other year. But watch your deck for other signs of wear—thermal expansion can put the screws to your deck screws.
Hot and Wet (Miami, FL): The double whammy. You should go ahead and plan on resealing your deck every year, and at least consider hiring a pro for the job.
Cold and Dry (Minneapolis, MN): This climate might seem like a gift to decks, but freeze/thaw cycles and heavy snow pack take their own unique tolls. Unless you have an ultra-durable wood, like Ipe, plan on sealing every year.
Cold and Wet (Cleveland, OH): …Not to mention cloudy. Along with the long drying times of the Pacific Northwest, this climate has the heavy snows of colder climates. Plan on sealing your deck every year.
Other Factors for Deck Maintenance & Sealing Frequency
• If you wait till you see signs of wear-and-tear, you’re already too late. Weathering takes time to occur and is virtually impossible to reverse. It’s like waiting till your tooth aches…and then start brushing your teeth.
• Don’t immediately dismiss, but be wary of deck sealers that say they last longer than 2-3 years. These products may, indeed, last longer than conventional sealer but recoating may be more difficult. If you think sealing your deck every 1-2 years is a hassle, imagine having to completely strip (or worse replace) your deck every 5 or 6 years.
• That said, don’t get tunnel-vision with selecting a deck sealant product. Proper and diligent surface preparation is just as important, if not more so. Power wash your deck, give it a day or two to dry, then sweep it to remove new dust and debris. Then, you can apply sealant.
• If you’re willing to cope with some minor color inconsistency, you may be able to get away with partially sealing your deck. Often, deck sealant on vertical surfaces will last twice as long as horizontal surfaces. You may be able to seal the floor of your deck every year and a complete sealant application every other year.