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deck_maintenance(MCT)—One of the joys of late summer and early fall is spending deck time with family and friends. That is, of course, unless your outdoor structure has become a debris-laden, splintering eyesore.

A wood deck can last a lifetime, providing it’s well maintained. If you want to keep yours — or get yours — in good shape, follow tips our research team gleaned from highly rated deck pros:

• Do an inspection. Review the deck annually, searching for such safety hazards as loose bolts, nails, rails, handles and floorboards.

• Keep it clean. At least once a year, clear your deck of leaves, twigs, branches and other material.

• To remove mold, mildew or other stains, use a deck-cleaning solution and a stiff brush. Power washing is another option, but use a light setting; high pressure can splinter wood.

• Stain or seal. Depending on how much time your deck bakes in the sun or is exposed to other extremes, it will need to be stained or sealed every two to four years.

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