Porches, Arbors, Patios and Decks

Most porches and decks are wooden structures. The pores in wood absorb moisture, which encourages the growth of insects and fungi that destroy wood. Ultraviolet rays of the sun rob wood of its color and natural oils, causing cracking and splitting which then allows moisture to enter. Therefore, proper maintenance is essential to preserve the life of your porch or deck.

PORCHES. Check your porch for settling, damaged decking, roof leaks, and damage to porch steps and railings. A small problem may be easily repaired, but a problem ignored soon becomes a job for a professional. Immediate repair or replacement of damaged wood will mitigate further rotting of your porch.

DECKS. Posts, beams, and joists are particularly prone to rot because they’re often near ground level and covered by decking. Steps and railings work loose through normal use, and finishes, no matter how tough, give way to weather. Rotting or mildew must be dealt with immediately because they cause the deck’s condition to decline rapidly. Stains are the best sealants for a deck, so use them wherever possible. Be sure to ask for one formulated for exterior use. If your deck has been painted before, you’ll have to settle for a fresh coat of paint after a thorough scraping. Use screws, not nails, to repair a deck as they prevent splitting of the wood and will not work loose over time.

PATIOS. Check your patio each spring. As the ground thaws, it may cause your patio to heave and crack.

It will need to be replaced if severe heaving or cracking occurs. For information about caring for concrete, please refer to the paragraph about paving in the following section.


If you ignore a paving problem, it will usually get worse. When caught early enough, problems require only a modest expenditure of time and money. Look for cracked, chipped, sunken, or heaved steps or pavement. It pays to keep an eye out for problems and attend to them right away.

Checklist for Walks, Steps and Drives:

PAVING. If you find a problem in the paving, try to locate the source. Frost, settlement, de-icing com¬pounds, and tree roots all take their toll on even the best-laid paving. Asphalt paving needs sealing every two years or whenever the surface becomes checked with hairline cracks or dries out. Concrete paving should never be exposed to salt or calcium chloride products that are used to remove ice. It is common for concrete to crack. Minor cracks are to be expected. Larger cracks or heaving may indicate that the concrete needs to be replaced. Loose-fill drives consist of gravel, pebbles, crushed rock, cinders, and slag. Although these drives are impervious to freezing and thawing, repeated use and erosion tend to deposit some of the fill onto your lawn or flush it down into the street, requiring that you replenish the material every few years.

BRICK STEPS.  Moisture causes cracking in brick steps and makes the surface dangerously slick to walk on. Guard against moisture getting into the mortar joints by keeping your steps clear of ice and snow. Also, look for mortar damage in the treads, on the edges and in joints between the steps and the house or walk.

WOODEN STEPS. Check to make sure that wooden steps are shedding water, rather than soaking it in. Wooden steps are prone to the same moisture problems as porches and decks.

NOTE: Never put salt or calcium chloride on concrete; it will cause the surface to crumble and flake off. To avoid this, use only a de-icer that is safe for concrete.