Moaning and Groaning About Deck Maintenance

We’re pretty dedicated to maintaining everything about our property, including deck maintenance. Check that; actually, my wife is dedicated. I’m usually hard to find when it comes to chores like that. When it’s time for deck cleaning and sealing, there is always some emergency I need to address on the other side of town or I’ve been temporarily abducted by aliens.

Sena is usually not one for moaning and groaning about these jobs, but painting the deck rail spindles is an exception—each and every spindle, separately and painstakingly swabbed with a brush so that every tiny spot is covered with sealant.

The right kind of sealant is critical. She usually likes water-based sealant, but the local hardware store salesman managed to sell her an oil-based product that was on sale. There’s debate about the relative merits of water-based vs oil-based sealants.

In general, the water-based products are a lot easier to work with and provide excellent deck protection. Oil-based sealants have been around a lot longer, penetrate better, and naturally repel water. Most of them nowadays have a low risk rating as volatile organic compounds (VOC), meaning they are environmentally safe. On the other hand, Sena is finding it takes more than one coat of the oil-based product to get adequate coverage, and she has to use a brush instead of a pump pressure sprayer. It takes longer to finish the job—which elicits more moaning and groaning.

We’re not 100% sold on the assurance by experts that either one puts down a finish that will last for several years. We live in Iowa and shovel the deck several times a season, so moaning and groaning about this could happen pretty much every two or three years.

Just for the sake of full transparency about my role in this job—I was banned last year for reasons which would normally remain opaque but who cares?

That cleaning and sealing chore last year was a major challenge. I somehow had to figure out how to reach the yard side of the spindles to cover them with sealant. The trouble was that I was not tall enough to reach them. I think it is to my credit and possibly my eternal fame that I immediately came up with an ingenious solution—a boom lift truck. I have some simple instructions to pass on to those who learn certain skills quickly and don’t mind spending a little time in a state penitentiary.

Boom lift truck

Now, we didn’t own one but it just so happened that across the street there was a lot of construction going on in a new subdivision development. The average boom lift truck with a cage or bucket would have made a pretty big dent in our bank account.

You should pick a weekend day to successfully pull this off—I mean execute this procedure. Usually the construction crews are short-handed and they’re too busy smoking cigarettes to pay much attention to what’s going on around them.

Pick a two-story house under construction, which is more likely to need a boom lift truck for applying various exterior features like windows, cedar shakes, shingles and escape hatches. It’s likely to be left running with the key in the ignition. There might be a couple of construction guys hanging around, which you can get rid of by shouting “Hey look, there goes Elvis!”

This always works—pretty much. While they raced off, fumbling with particle board scraps which they could possibly get an autograph scribbled on using lumber crayon, I climbed into the nearest boom lift truck.

There’s usually a button to start it. The one I found was already running. Reverse gear was difficult to find; it was just as easy to hit the gas and dislodge the portico cover on the way back to the street. By this time, a couple of construction workers and a rottweiler had spotted me and were racing back across the lot, yelling and barking.

This was not a problem. I managed to get the rig up on two wheels and whipped around. I contributed to their cardio workout as they sprinted back the way they came. I finally caught all of the pursuers including the dog in the basket. It didn’t take me long to figure out where to dump them. There were plenty of basement holes dug. They were making quite a bit of progress in that subdivision!

I made it back home in time for lunch. I had to eat fast because I could hear sirens up the street. I could get only a few rail spindles covered before I discovered that I might have to quick like find a hideout—I mean alternative living quarters.

Anyway, you’ll have to do some calculations to figure out how much progress you can make with this method. I’ve refined it in several ways and I plan to post an update on these instruction when I’m out on parole—I mean back from vacation.

See you soon!

In any case, I think Sena is doing a great job. She’s been a tireless gardener, hospital volunteer, and the best wife a guy could ask for.

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