Snow Removal Tips for Decks

A deck buried under a winter snow means added weight on your deck.

Your deck snow removal process starts before the first snow arrives! As fall begins to wane, make sure you take advantage of those last few warm days to clean, sweep, and wash your entire deck. Use a bristle or deck broom and a commercial deck cleaner to clean your deck. You can also pressure wash your deck, but be careful not to damage the wood by holding the washer tip too close to the wood, and never use a jet tip to pressure wash wood.

Clean off any mildew on your deck by using a mixture of water, oxygen bleach, and liquid dish soap. [Oxygen Bleach contains no phosphorous or nitrogen, making it a perfect eco-friendly choice. It is odorless and colorless and comes in both a liquid and powder form. Oxygen bleach is a powder that is activated by water, causing it to release oxygen and have great cleaning power. It can be safely used almost any instance chlorine bleach is used but without the toxic fumes and substantial negative environmental effects.] For best results use a few squirts of soap and three cups of water to 1 cup of oxygen bleach. You can use a bucket and a plastic bristle brush (nothing metal) if the mildew is heavy, or put the mixture into a spray bottle and spray any affected areas. Either way, wait at least half an hour, then rinse with water. Repeat as often as necessary.

While it’s true that excess snow on your deck can be dangerous, a properly constructed wood deck can support the weight of approximately 3 feet of snow before it becomes a weight concern. However, excess moisture from prolonged snow accumulation, or from melting snow can damage wood boards. If you properly sealed your deck in the fall, and the accumulated snow is under 36-inches, and you have a sturdy deck, you should be okay.

A homeowner using a plastic shovel to remove snow to ensure she doesn’t damage her deck.

However, it’s always a good idea to remove enough snow from your deck to ensure you have a safe, ice-free exit in case of a fire or other disaster. Here are some tips to make sure your deck stays clear and safe:

  • When the first threat of snow is announced, clear your deck of furniture, plants and other items. You don’t want to have to shovel around them and they tend to hold snow and ice, freeze to the wood, trap moisture, and present other issues. If you prefer to leave things like large pots and decorative items, or your grill, tables, and chairs etc. out, cover them with heavy-duty construction trash bags, or heavy-duty plastic and rope. Trapped moisture underneath some items can rot your deck, or cause mold and mildew or dark spots on the wood over the winter. Covering these items will protect them from moisture and rain and make them easier to move or clean later if they are covered in snow.

Unlike your driveway and walkways, your wood or composite deck needs special attention to ensure it’s not knicked, scratched or damaged in the snow removal process.

Snow Removal Tips for Decks

  • Clean off your roof and eaves. Odd as that might sound, it’s often falling snow, ice, and icicles from house roofs that damage or hurt decks!
  • Remove snow with a plastic shovel. Use a plastic shovel to remove most of the snow, then switch to a broom before getting to the deck level (about ½ to 1 inch).
  • Don’t use a metal shovel. Metal shovels can nick, splinter and damage your wood or composite boards. Those unprotected nicks then allow moisture to accumulate and further damage your deck. If you don’t have a plastic or other shovel use multiple layers of duct tape over the edges of your metal shovel to help protect the deck. Check the edges frequently to ensure the tape hasn’t rubbed off. Pad the corners of the shovel extra heavily.
  • Use a push broom for light snow. You can also use a push broom to finish off a job with heavier snow. As you get closer to the boards, swap out your shovel for the broom. Use a stiff straw broom for getting in between boards and in tight spaces.
  • Don’t use an ice scraper, even a plastic one — on your deck. If you need to melt ice, go with pet-safe chemicals, which also will have the least impact on deck boards.
  • Shovel parallel to your deck boards. This will keep your shovel from snagging and hanging on the edge of your boards.
  • Don’t try to break up ice on your deck. It’s tempting to hit sheets of ice on the deck or rails to break it up but don’t. You can inadvertently mar, dent, break or otherwise damage your boards.
  • Only use ice melt designed for wood decks, not sidewalks or driveways, to melt ice on your deck. The calcium chloride in ice melt can damage your wood.

Chemicals and Ice Melt

While it’s tempting to use the same ice melt you use on your driveway and sidewalks on your wood deck, don’t. Most of these melts contain calcium chloride. This chemical easily penetrates into wood surfaces and can cause premature deterioration of your wood deck.

Salt and calcium chloride are considered safe for composite decks like Timbertech and Trex. You can use rock salt on any deck, but only if you can easily wash it off within a few days as it can be as damaging as the calcium chloride.

If you must use an ice melt, get one that is safe for pets and children. Remember, when it is washed off of the deck any chemicals go into the ground below and can affect your pets, landscaping, and children in the spring.

With the proper maintenance and attention to your deck through winter storms, you should be able to enjoy your deck for years to come!