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Maintaining decks and balconies

About 6% of Australian houses have a timber deck or balcony. Of these, around 2% could cause fatal injuries if they collapsed or had a balustrade or railing fail.

In Queensland, the percentage of homes with decks or balconies is even higher.

Here are some tips below for maintaining your deck or balcony.

General deck and balcony maintenance

  • Avoid frequently wetting decks and balconies—sweep instead of hosing, where possible.
  • If your deck or balcony does get wet, ensure it’s ventilated adequately so it dries quickly.
  • Place pot plants on trays and prevent them from overflowing.
  • Remove shrubs or plants that permanently shade the deck or balcony and remove creepers from rails or other components, as these prevent moisture escaping.
  • Reapply finishes at regular intervals (depending on the finish type and degree of exposure). Clean the timber decking thoroughly before coating. Avoid using Oregon pine for structural purposes, as it won’t last.

Termites

Termites can be a major problem in timber structures.

Look for:

  • any soft wood that’s been used to construct the deck or balcony
  • discoloured or blistered paint
  • termite mud nests or any build-up of soil around the base of the timber
  • fine 'sawdust' around or below the timber.

Wet rot and moisture

Wet rot and moisture can cause timber to decay and fixings to rust.

To help minimise damage:

  • protect timber exposed to the weather by regularly painting or oiling
  • reduce dampness on the timber by not allowing water to sit or pool on the deck (e.g. keep trays or feet under pot plants)
  • clear away soil and other debris from bearers or joists and deck posts or supports
  • fix any structural problems immediately.

Coastal elements

Salt, sand and wind make deck maintenance even more important.

To protect your structure:

  • apply oil-based paint to all exposed timber, such as bearers, joists and posts, as decking oil alone may not be enough to protect against harsh coastal conditions
  • protect metal structures with paint or another coating (which should be done when the house is built)
  • fix any metal that is unprotected and starting to rust before it gets worse.

For more detail, read our deck, balcony and window safety guideline (PDF, 1.7MB).