Ask the Expert: How to Protect Your Deck

It’s a beautiful sunny day on the East End, but we all know that the cold weather is coming—and with it the threats to your house in the Hamptons that snow, ice and rain can bring. You’ll want to do all you can to protect your deck, roof or siding from the harsh elements, but that effort will raise many how-to questions. We turned to our friends at Mildew Busters for some answers.

Mildew Buster
Ben the Mildew Buster!

The Question: Does bleach kill mildew or mold?

The Answer from Mildew Busters: Contrary to popular belief, bleach DOES NOT kill mildew or mold. What it does do is two things.

1. It kills the pigment in the mold, making it invisible so you think that it’s gone away. Within a couple of weeks it will appear again in the same areas, usually in a greater amount.

2. With certain types of mold, bleach will set off a toxic fume that can be a serious health hazard. DO NOT USE BLEACH TO REMOVE MOLD. It does not work and can be very dangerous to your health.

Cleaning Mold
Cleaning mold can be dangerous business.

The Question: Should I take any special precautions with my home’s exterior for winter?

The Answer: Absolutely.  The harsh and wet weather associated with winters on the East End is the most damaging to unprotected decks, cedar roofs and siding. Wet leaves, snow, ice, rain and especially salt, if left on these surfaces, contribute quickly to rot or, in the case of roofs, leaking.

All decks, whether cedar or hardwood, should be cleaned with a mildicide and sealed with a high quality oil-based product so moisture does not penetrate the wood. Any leaves, ice or snow should be removed as soon as possible. On cedar roofs, similar maintenance is required to ensure that mold does not start growing on them and begins to rot them out. Properly cleaning again with a mildicide and then sealing with a waterproofing solution will eliminate any costly and unnecessary repairs next spring and prolong the life of the surface.

Siding, too, is not immune. Water runs off your roof and down the sides of your house, and depending on the exposure either dries quickly or may take days before it is dry—if at all. Washing the siding with a low-pressure machine after treating it with a mildicide will remove mold, which essentially acts like a sponge retaining moisture. After properly drying, a touch-up or complete sealing will ensure that costly repairs won’t be necessary.

In most cases, if a deck, roof or siding is properly taken care of, replacing boards, shingles or siding because of rot should never be necessary. Once sealed, a deck, roof or siding will bead up like a waxed car when moisture hits it, instead of the moisture’s soaking into the wood. This will ensure that it lasts indefinitely. Following these maintenance steps is infinitely less expensive in the long run than rebuilding decks and replacing roofs and siding.

Have questions of your own about getting your deck ready for winter, battling mildew or caring for the exterior of your home? You can visit Mildew Busters at or send your questions to [email protected] You may even see them answered in a future Ask the Expert! 

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