Decking is an increasingly popular addition to gardens, creating a space to entertain and enjoy the warmer months. But during the winter, decking can become slippery, particularly during adverse weather conditions.
One of the most popular ways to transform a garden is to install decking. Combined with a garden building, decking can create an outdoor space that’s perfect for entertaining or relaxing during the sunny weather. Lots of different types of decked structures are available, but one thing they all have in common is becoming slippery when the weather isn’t great.
Decking itself comes with plenty of benefits. The additional space can increase the area outside a garden room and allow easy access without walking across grass and soil. Adding additional furniture such as an outdoor chair and table is a great way to utilise decking as an extension to a garden bar or entertainment room. A professional decking installation could also increase the value of the property by adding desirability and creating additional space for families to enjoy outside.
During bad weather conditions, outside surfaces can become slippery and decking is no exception. If you plan to use a garden building throughout all months of the year, we need to make sure it’s always easy to access. Slippery decking could make the building unusable during winter, so it’s important we take additional steps to ensure the decking is safe.
Why does decking become slippery?
The main cause of slippery decking is a combination of moisture and organic growth, such as algae and moss. The challenge with untreated wood is that it absorbs lots of moisture. When it rains, the moisture is absorbed into the wood and during the winter is not going to dry any time soon.
Wet decking alone is enough to create an extremely slippery surface that’s easy to lose your balance if not careful. As the moisture is trapped in the wood for long periods, this can lead to the growth of organic matter. Moss and algae begin to form on the surface, covering the wood grains that create grip and making the surface of the decking slippery. The sight of green decking can also be unpleasant, ruining the look of a well-kept garden.
Leaves and broken twigs from trees in the winter can also be sitting on top of the decking, adding more obstacles to navigate around. Freezing conditions during the winter will compound slipperiness the most, making many decked areas virtually impossible to navigate without additional support.
The colder months overall are particularly harsh on untreated decking by combining debris, moss growth and ice into creating an extremely slippery surface.
Brush away debris and leaves
The first step to maintaining decking is to get into a regular maintenance and cleaning routine. Gardens can often go unloved during the colder months of the year, which is one of the main causes of slippery decking.
The decking should be regularly cleaned with a garden brush to sweep away any leaves or other debris that has fallen onto the surface. Leaves on the surface prevent the sun from getting to the decking and lead to the moisture taking longer to dry. This allows for increased growth of mould and algae, resulting in a slippery surface. A clear decking area allows as much sun as possible to keep the wood dry.
Choose a brush that’s large enough to pick up leaves and lift away any moss growth, but be careful not to damage the surface of the decking. For example, avoid using a wire brush as this could wear away any wood treatment, allowing moisture to penetrate further into the decking.
As well as being extremely satisfying, pressure washing is a great way to remove built-up contaminants from decking. It’s important to remove debris and leaves first to avoid them being blown around the garden by the pressure washer.
The pressure washer will make light work of moss & algae, as well as built-up mud and other bits of dirt. The result is a decking area that looks brand new and has been removed of anything causing the surface to be slippery. Harsh cleaning chemicals are not required as the water pressure alone is enough to remove even stubborn dirt.
Pressure washing decking does come with a caution that it should not be done on a regular basis. Just like a patio, once or twice a year is plenty. Too much pressure washing can begin to damage the top layer of the wood, leading to premature ageing and wear.
Once pressure washing has been completed, we need to reapply a wood treatment. The water pressure will wear away a lot of the treatment, leaving the decking vulnerable to water ingress. A new coating of treatment will reseal the decking, resulting in the wood not just looking great but also remaining protected.
Use mats for grip
Outdoor rubber mats are designed to withstand all weather conditions and can add plenty of grip to the decking during the coldest months of the year. Rubber grip mats are not a permanent solution and are designed to be used on a temporary basis in bad weather such as freezing and icy conditions.
Rubber mats are not the most visually appealing and definitely not something we would want covering decking during the summer, so we also need somewhere to store them away. Most mats have drainage holes to prevent water from sitting on the surface of the rubber. A challenge with this is the mats keeping moisture against the wood. We can work around this by regularly lifting the mats up to allow the decking time to dry out completely when not in use.
Mats are often not required to cover the full deck, instead placed on the most walked-on parts such as a path to a garden room.
Install decking tape or strips
A number of solutions such as tape and strips are available to reduce the slipperiness of the decking surface and provide a more permanent solution than mats. Anti-slip tape comes on a roll and feels similar to sand-paper. The tape provides plenty of grip when walked over and is extremely fast to install.
Installation requires a clear day where the decking is dry. The surface should also be cleaned in advance to allow the tape’s adhesive to stick correctly. Once installed, the tape sits near flush with the decking, providing extra traction when walking over. Anti-slip tape is a semi-permanent solution as it can begin to show signs of wear and may need replacing once each year.
Decking anti-slip strips are installed by either adhesive or screws directly into the wood. Screwed solutions provide increased durability for a permanent solution to slippery decking. The strips are slightly raised and not the most aesthetic installed on decking but do provide effective results.
It’s common to install the strips on steps to add extra grip and the strip can run the length of the step.
As we have discussed, the main cause of slipperiness on decking is the build-up of moisture. This is due to organic growth and also the wet surface reducing grip against the wood grain. One way to reduce the amount of moisture in the first place is to ensure the decking has adequate drainage.
If you notice lots of standing water on the decking surface after it’s been raining, there’s likely not enough drainage. Sitting water is the enemy of wood as it can lead to mould growth and damage to the structure of the wood over time if the wood is untreated.
The gaps in between each decking board allow for expansion, but they also allow for water to drain away. If the gaps are blocked by debris, this could affect the performance of the drainage. Be sure to clear them out to ensure rainwater can pass through easily.
Decking can also be installed on a slight slope to allow for plenty of drainage. The slope is subtle enough to not notice when using the deck, but enough for the water to flow down the slope in the same direction. This can be retrofitted to decking with drainage issues by using furring strips but does require removal of the decking boards.
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Use non-slip decking treatment
Just like timber garden buildings, the wood on decking needs to be treated for maximum longevity. The treatment plays a vital role in weatherproofing the wood and preventing fungal growth. As well as initial treatment, decking often requires a maintenance coating every few years, particularly if it is used regularly.
Non-slip decking oil is one of the most hardwearing and specifically designed for this purpose. The oils dry on the surface, preventing water from getting into the wood. This prevents moisture from sticking around during the winter, allowing the decking to dry out quicker and reducing the growth of moss and algae.
Another benefit is the oil will also make the decking look great. Different products are available which can breathe new life into tired decking and transform the overall appearance.
How to make decking non-slip
Decking is a great addition to any garden, creating a stylish space to relax and unwind. While decking is great during the summer, it does pose some challenges during the colder months of the year. Slipperiness is a particular issue, making a decked surface near unusable during freezing conditions.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to add additional grip back to the decking surface. Most methods relate to good maintenance of the decking, including regular brushing and clearing away of debris. Non-slip oil will make the job easier, by adding a protective layer to the top of the decking. During adverse weather conditions, rubber mats can make a great temporary solution to add additional grip.