This is the most important question you can ask.
The following characteristics differentiates us from our competitors:
✓ We specialize in Deck Restoration. Most of our competitors do a little bit of everything!
✓ Our knowledge of wood and protective coatings compared to our competitors
We are a speed driven company. We approach every customer according to their desired time frame for job completion. It gives us satisfaction to surprise the customer with an early completion. We work very long hours. We hire the best people we can hire. We buy the best equipment available to let us execute with speed, while achieving the best possible results. Many times, we can be on your job within days or a week at the most. Of course, our work is highly dependent on the weather.
Every day, we see the results of home owners trying to do this very important and sometimes dangerous work themselves. Here’s what we see:
✓ Improperly washed wood, frequently damaged severely by using excessive pressure, which causes PERMANENT DAMAGE to your wood.
✓ Stain on the siding of not only your home, but over-spray from your work over onto your neighbor’s homes. Not a good way to make friends with your neighbors.
✓ Improper choice of stain and sealant, some of which are nearly impossible to remove, once applied, and some of which are quite worthless in protecting your wood. Hence, much work for minor results. Proper maintenance of wood requires specialized knowledge, properly applied pressure washing, and the right choice of stains and sealant, applied properly to give you the result you desire: long lasting beauty.
Unfortunately, pressure washers have been the cause of innocent, but serious damage to the wood on thousands of decks, by both “professionals” and the do-it-yourself person. This is caused by using too much pressure on the wood frequently at an improper angle of attack, which digs out the soft white wood between the dark wood of the tree rings.
Very few people who wash decks, understand the structure and difference between the light and dark colored wood in the tree ring pattern. But this knowledge is vital in avoiding damage to the wood. It only takes ONE wrong or accidental stroke of the pressure washer wand to cut deep irreparable grooves into the wood. This results in grooves which act as traps for water, which eventually seeps into the wood, loosening the fibers which hold the wood together. In freezing temperatures, this water expands when it freezes and pushes the wood fibers apart, forming a crack which makes the problem worse…quite rapidly.
Once this process begins, it’s impossible to reverse.
However, when we fill these cracks with our stain, the stain migrates outward from the crack into the wood, at least preserving the wood that is down inside the crack, while slowing the crack widening process. Over time, the stain, through the process of osmosis, moves deeper and deeper into the wood. Because of this process, we recommend a second application of stain in two or three years for very old dry decks and four or five years for newer decks.
This time frame depends a lot on your desires. If color is not terribly important to you, we believe our heavy application of stain preserves the interior of your wood for at least six to seven years. If color is very important to you, then you should call us when the color is less than you would like or have us set you up in our very affordable Maintenance Washing Program. Color retention is highly variable, depending on the condition of your wood, the aspect to the sun, the concentration of exhaust particles, etc.
Think carefully about the above statements and what they mean to your wood. While the surface color will gradually fade, the stain continues to move ever deeper inside your wood, thus preserving it for many many years. Re-applications will certainly enhance this process, while maintaining it’s natural beauty.
Great question. We insists on a personal appointment in order to provide you a price estimate that is based on firsthand information. Only in this manner can we commit our resources to your job, certain that the experience will be a “win” for you and a “win” for our company at a good price for you. The old adage, “You get what you pay for” is certainly relevant in this business. This provides an opportunity for us to look at the job critically and determine what we believe is the best treatment for your wood, lets you meet Jonathan in person, hear him speak, look him in the eye, and realize he is “different from the others”. This process further establishes our credibility on several facets of our relationship:
✓ You will know that he knows wood intimately and what should be done with yours.
✓ You will come to know him and sense his personal integrity
✓ You come to feel you can trust him to do exceptionally high quality work.
✓ You will realize he will act to get your job done quickly
Yes, though we don’t advise you to do this unless you plan to stain the deck immediately.
I just want my deck washed but not stained. Do you offer this service?
Your deck has lost it’s bright color because of some combination of the four “enemies of wood” have discolored the top layer of the wood fibers.
Restoration means we wash all the chemical pollutants, dead wood fibers, dust, stain, etc. from your wood with a detergent or if removing stain, a stripper product. For our stain/sealant to do it’s job, it must have clean bare wood to start with. Furthermore, our cleaning process helps soften the cell walls of the wood, making them more receptive to absorbing our oil-based preservative. Our goal is to losen everything on your wood so we can rinse it off with minimal pressure so we do not damage your wood.
Then we let the wood dry so the cells can absorb a lot of stain. You may be surprised to learn that only wood which has been mechanically dried at temperatures above the boiling point has no water in it. All other exterior wood has some level of moisture inside, which varies constantly as the temperature, wind speed, and humidity levels in the atmosphere change. Incidentally, wind dries wood much faster than hot weather.
Pine wood is a vibrant substance, much like a sponge, which is constantly changing size (in millimeters) as the temperature and level of humidity changes. That’s why you can “hear” a new deck “cracking” as it dries (and shrinks) in the hot sun, and this is the primary cause of nails and screws becoming loose in your deck, as well as the normal “seasoning checks” cracks.
Understanding that wood must be able to aspirate or breath moisture in and out, is crucial in determining the best type of preservative material to use. We believe the best is a deeply penetrating oil-based stain/sealant which seals out liquid water while allowing the wood to breathe out vaporized water.
A board cannot be “water sealed” with some form of “cap” because the entire board is subject to the forces of expansion and contraction. Water “beading on top of wood” is very bad for your wood, since that water is highly acidic in this area. This concept is purely a marketing myth.
We revitalize the wood cells by applying an oil-based, deeply penetrating combination stain/sealant which will penetrates deep into the cells of the wood, thereby protecting it from it’s enemies.
Wood which been stained with copious amounts of our stain becomes more resistant to decay and mildew fungi, water, and ultra violet rays. Concurrently, it becomes more flexible and resilient.
The stain makes it highly scratch resistant since the coefficient of friction has been greatly reduced by the oil in the stain. This reduces the propensity to split, sliver, chip, and crack.
It’s UV protection components (nano-sized particles of metal) refract (reflect) the ultra violet rays of the sun like trillions of tiny mirrors, back off the wood, mitigating their penetration into the wood.
It’s chemistry is designed to break the surface tension of water droplets so they spread out and run off the wood rather than “beading” up and remaining as a drop of acid rain on the wood surface. Beading will occur only for two or three weeks, until the oily surface residue is absorbed into the wood.
In our region of MD, your exterior wood has four primary enemies and one friend:
✓ Spent hydrocarbons (burned jet and auto fuel). We have hundreds of airplanes and thousands of cars which produce these chemicals every day. Remember we have three major airports in the area, BWI, Reagan, and Dulles. Imagine how many pounds of such chemicals fall on us every day.
✓ Ultraviolet rays from the sun. UV rays are nature’s most powerful natural destructors of dead wood. During the hot summer months, these rays are very intense, and chemically break down a thin layer of your wood, which turns gray. They will also break down many “stain/sealants”, especially clear “sealants”.
✓ Moisture and heat. These are the catalysts. When these “enemies” of wood combine, especially under snow and ice during the winter or in the heat of summer, they create a toxic and destructive force which rapidly discolors and chemically breaks down the fibers which hold wood together. When the ice melts and your wood( “dries”) completely in July, you will see cracks in the wood.
We’ve already described our cleaning process. To save the cost of the detergent, many amateur contractors use extreme water pressure to remove the pollutants and old stains. Washing wood is similar to washing a plate with dried egg yolk on it: how long and hard do you need to wash that plate if you have no detergent? A long time with a lot of force. But with the right detergent and little time to soak, very little force. Same with wood. Then we let the deck dry until we know it is thoroughly dry, normally two days.
Many competitors make a serious mistake here, by staining your deck the next day after washing it. Why? Because it’s simpler to manage and costs them less.
The key to stain penetrating the cell walls and filling the cells with sealant is to have the cells as empty as possible of water. When, and only when we know the wood is dry and receptive to stain penetration, do we apply the stain. A cell that is full or partially full of water cannot and will not accept sealant. Should we have any doubt about how dry your wood is, we carry electronic moisture meters so we can verify your deck is sufficiently dry before we stain it.
This is the second most crucial question you can ask.
But you need to study the following technical information carefully to fully appreciate why the choice of stain/sealant is so vital, from start to finish. It’s the “make or break” part of your decision.
No matter how well your deck is prepped, if you choose the wrong stain/sealant, you will not have success and happiness. 40-50% of our business is stripping off and replacing failed stains! When a stain fails, you are then faced with the cost of having it stripped off, a very expensive process, but also the cost of doing the job over again, with no satisfaction from the first effort. All the products on the market make claims of many years of durability. Take a look at our photo gallery to see how quickly many of the consumer brands fail.
A Deck Sealed with Thomsons after 2 Years
Essentially, there are three types of stains. Those which do not penetrate the wood, but form a layer on top of it, and those which penetrate very slightly into the wood, and finally the one which penetrates completely into the cell cavities. We use the latter. The former can be solid color, semi-transparent, or clear.
We use a commercial quality stain/sealant which has outstanding characteristics. In our process, the stain and sealant are one and the same, applied by spraying, rolling or brushing, as appropriate. It has a very low viscosity so it has high penetrative characteristics.
Pigment is the technical name for color and the following is generally true: the more pigment in the stain, the more protection from UV rays, the less pigment, the less protection. This is why a clear sealant will only last a few months, and then your wood is discolored again. In essence, a waste of time and money. Pigment color is generally achieved with pulverized limestone particles more commonly known as talcum or clay.
Our stain is very different in the source of it’s pigment, which are nano sized particles of metal. These particles are small enough to enter the cells in wood. Once there, they deflect the UV rays from the sun, and retain their color much longer than clay or talcum. Since our stain is oil-based it does not evaporate out of your wood. Once inside the cells, it stays there and through capillary action, it continues to penetrate ever deeper inside the wood.
We use exclusively ReadySeal stain, which is produced by a small company in Texas.
This stain is like a miracle product. It’s extremely low viscosity makes it incredibly penetrative. It does not dry “sticky” or “tacky”. It goes into the wood immediately, and does not remain on top, unless the board is stained “beyond capacity”. The pigment remains 100% suspended in the containers, even after sitting for several months. This means it remains in suspension inside the cells of your wood. WE NEVER HAVE TO SHAKE OR STIR IT! While their web site recommends two light coats, we feel we get better results with a very heavy single coat applying APPROXIMATELY DOUBLE THE NORMAL AMOUNT of stain per square foot of wood surface. I’ve spoken with them about this, and their explanation for the two coats is that most people in this business apply just enough stain to achieve color, hence their recommendation of two coats. They confirmed that they know of no other company which applies as much stain per square foot of wood as we do, and concurred that our approach of one heavy coat is completely acceptable.
Sealed with Wolmans after 2 years
For their own protection, they also say the stain needs to dry for 48 hours since the wood will have an oily sheen on the surface. We assume this is to give them 100% protection from liability in case, for example, someone has white carpets. If the stain is properly applied, it can be walked on immediately. We do so every day. Yes, there is a microscopically thin sheen of oil on the deck and it smells strongly for a couple of days, but you can use your deck the next day after we stain it. They market by direct sales to the contractor market, and to-date, have refused to sell through the normal retail consumer channels such as Sherwin Williams, Home Depot, Lowes, Duron, etc. That’s why you will not find their products in these stores, nor will you find them evaluated by Consumer Reports.
The company, ReadySeal, Inc. and our Company have a lot in common: we’re privately owned and professionally managed. We invest in people, equipment, and products which help us deliver the best possible performance to our customers. Instead of a glamorous web site with an underperforming product, as is the case with nearly every product available in the retail consumer products segment, they have a mediocre web site, but deliver a superior product that outperforms any stain we have stripped or applied.
The original founder came from the lumber manufacturing business, where he had worked in every facet from felling and logging the trees, to all positions in small and large sawmills, including the management of a sawmill which produced 75 million board feet of lumber annually and a utility pole company that produced and pressure treated 35,000 wooden utility poles per year. He knows what treatment and what products wood needs to be properly and beautifully preserved.
ReadySeal provides everything wood needs to be preserved and to maintain it’s natural beauty. It’s like medicine to sick wood. You can see this in our photo gallery where many of the decks and fences were slated for replacement until we convinced the client that we could revitalize their tired old wood. Many of these decks and fences are more than 25 years old. How long will they last? Indefinitely with proper maintenance and the continued application of ReadySeal stain every few years. ReadySeal is a registered trade name of Ready Seal, Inc.
We offer three colors. Most of our clients choose Natural Cedar… just the right amount of pigment for excellent protection, but light enough to be bright, cheerful and beautiful. Most of the decks in our Photo Gallery have this color on them. On older wood, we often recommend one shade darker, Medium Red, which has more pigment to give the old sunburned wood a bit more “sun block” from the powerful UV rays. On exotic woods like ipe and teak, we recommend Dark Red.
This depends on several factors:
✓ The condition of your wood when we worked on it the first time
✓ The location in relation to the sun’s rays
✓ How close you are to one of the major flyways of BWI or a major highway
✓ Our goal is to achieve the longest possible duration between applications. We’ve tested our process by returning each year to try to apply more stain to some of our decks. Typically, they won’t accept “statistically significantly” more until 2-3 years (very old sunburned wood) and 4-6 years (newer wood) after the first application. How do we know? The new stain puddles on top, immediately. Why? Because the wood has been filled to capacity, with our oil-based stain which penetrates into the wood and does not evaporate. But we also know many variable affect the life of our stain: each home varies in how many hours of intense sunlight it receives, how long does the snow remain on a shady deck which receives very little sun during the winter, how many external sources of moisture are nearby, such as streams, golf course watering systems, steep hill where the deck remains dew laden and shady most of the year, or very near a major flyway or highway, which virtually assures that the deck will darken rapidly from the falling particles of hydrocarbons (exhaust fumes/particles).
Stained in 2006. After four summer seasons, still in superb condition.
We fill each board to capacity in our first application. We do not deal in the number of coats. This is much different than many of our competitors who apply just enough to cover the wood “skin deep”. As mentioned before, we apply much more stain than our competitors, covering only an average of 80 square feet per gallon on old cracked wood and around 100-120 square feet per gallon on newer tighter wood. These are general rules, so do not insist we apply x gallons per square foot to your wood. We, not you, make that decision based on our knowledge of how much stain your wood needs to be filled to capacity.
Notice: we never use the word saturation and we will not be held responsible to achieve something that is impossible, unless done inside a retort.
When wood is manufactured, it has a high moisture content. Even “kiln dried” lumber is no longer held to the strict standards of moisture content (19-21% for framing lumber and 9-12% for finishing stock) as was the case before the recent housing boom. Pressure treated lumber is supersaturated with water born preservatives and is typically not dried, except for the vacuum applied in the retort. Consequently, it is full of water and must be allowed to “air dry” sufficiently to be receptive to stain. This can vary from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the time of year of installation.
As wood dries in the open air, it shrinks, which causes some longitudinal cracking, which runs “with” the grain of the wood. This is normal and unavoidable. Larger deeper cracks in the wood are generally the result of neglect, and result from water sitting on the deck in the winter, seeping down into an initial very small crack, then freezing which causes expansion. This pushes the wood fibers apart. PERMANENTLY. These cracks will never close again. But our restoration process smooths the edges of them, and our sealant makes the surface smooth with a low coefficient of friction. This lets your patio furniture slide easily over such cracks without causing splintering.
Yes. We have a very attractively priced program to provide maintenance washing and staining. This is the best way for you to go…just as you change the oil in your car at regular intervals, so should your wood be cared for at regular intervals of every few years. If you are willing to provide us an email address, we set up a “Maintenance Washing” query in however many years we think we should re-visit your deck. No obligations of course. We have customers who want to keep their wood in top condition, so they have us come every two years to wash and re-apply stain. But we can tell you that after two such times, the wood simply will not accept any more stain. The cells are full and the color looks great after having the hydrocarbons washed off.
Yes, we offer a complete range of deck and fence repairs. Here are some examples of the kinds of things we regularly repair:
✓ Deck floor boards which have curled up
✓ Tighten loose deck floor boards
✓ Repair and replacement of rail cap boards
✓ Complete deck floor and step tread board replacement
✓ Loose fence boards, tighten, straighten or replace loose or leaning fence posts
✓Repair and replacement of gates, hinges, latches, etc.
Yes, we work with all types of wood. Redwood and cedar are unique soft woods that require special expertise to avoid damaging these very expensive and beautiful woods. They require especially gentle and sophisticated treatment.
The “exotic” specie we most frequently encounter in this area is ipe or sometimes called ironwood. One of the realities of exotic woods such as ipe, is that many homeowners are reluctant to confront the natural characteristics of the wood. Ipe, for example, is not just normal wood. It is saturated with natural oils which contribute to some of it’s unique characteristics:
If you have an ipe deck, we suggest you come to like the natural grey color of ipe wood exposed to the atmosphere. It is not meant to accept man-made stains and preservatives. It’s this way naturally. It’s so heavy, it will sink in water. The combination of natural oils and density makes it impervious to insects and practically fireproof. Because of the natural oil content and density, it is not easily penetrated by most stains or sealants. ReadySeal will penetrate ipe better than any other stain we have seen, but since the stain continues to penetrate the wood through osmosis, it will not remain on the surface, so the wood will need to be re-stained every year or two. Obviously, it absorbs less stain each time, leaving more residual pigment near the surface of the wood. After multiple applications, more residual color can be achieved. We’ve actually cut cross sections of the wood after letting it soak in a bucket of stain. Penetration was less than 1/16 of an inch. That said, using Dark Red stain multiple times achieves a beautiful red cedar color in ipe.
Deck, fence, and wood siding questions for decks With Stain on them:
Have us come and take a look. We will do some tests to see if the stain can be easily removed, or if you are stuck with what you have, and your only choice is to stay with the same product and the same color. Most of the time, the best option is to strip the old off and start over with a new slate of clean wood.
No, we will not stain over a previously applied stain. To do so interferes with our ability to deliver you a predictable result, for which we guarantee our work. We recommend you not do so either, for the new stain will not adhere to the previous one, and will almost surely peel or turn “splotchy–light and dark spots” in a short time.
Yes, but it depends on the type and brand of stain that needs to be stripped. Some solid color stains are very difficult to remove and require the use of toxic chemicals to dissolve them. This means we must wear protective clothing, face masks, impermeable gloves, etc. This makes the work very slow, as each board must be stripped individually, a time consuming process. So stripping is an expensive process, but stripping and re-staining with our stain is much less expensive than replacement.
You might be surprised to learn that nearly half our business is stripping off previously applied stains that have failed, and re-staining the deck or fence with our stain. Many fail miserably within two or three years. One of the most popular consumer brands, Behrs, is the stain we strip the most often. Most varieties of it are solid color stains which chips and peels at an alarming rate, especially if you have dogs, whose toe nails fracture the stain, allowing moisture to enter beneath the stain, and the peeling process begins. We find similar results with Sikkens, Wolman Extreme, etc. Any stain which supposedly “seals” the surface will soon fracture. Once fractured, the peeling and chipping process is irreversible and your once beautiful deck becomes a perpetual maintenance nightmare which is very costly to rectify.
Home Washing Questions:
Yes, but with qualifications.
We wash low, one and two story homes, using essentially the same process as we use on wood. Mild detergents which breaks the bond of the contaminants to the siding of your home,
The detergents are of three different strengths, but all contain an anti-mildewcide to help keep the mildew from coming back as soon.
Then we wash the home with the least amount of pressure necessary to get the siding clean.
We avoid very tall houses since we are not well equipped for this market segment, because of the danger involved. 35 feet is the maximum height we accept.
Vinyl, which is typically quite straightforward.
Aluminum. Aluminum siding is a bit sensitive, since the paint is baked on, and over time it oxidizes, especially where it gets hit by direct sun rays. When this happens the paint is actually breaking down and can be rubbed or washed off. To test, rub a finger hard against the painted siding. If your finger is now chalky, then your paint is oxidized, and there is the possibility that the oxidation is so deep, that even a slight bit too much pressure washing will remove all the paint, leaving bare metal exposed. Therefore, we make you aware of this danger in our estimate, and you accept the responsibility for the result. We wash it as gently as possible, and have never experienced the above, but we make every customer aware of this possibility.
Cedar, redwood and other exotic woods, but only if we are going to paint or stain the wood. Cedar and other exotic woods each have unique characteristics which require a high level of expertise to avoid damaging the wood. This work should be trusted to an experienced professional.