Quoted from http://moneypit.com/print/5097:
By Sheetal Werneke
Created 06/22/2010 – 20:44
A wood deck is a valuable asset to any home, but to keep it looking great you have to know how to prep and stain exterior surfaces. Take a few minutes each year to check it out and make sure your deck is in good condition. Every few years, prep and stain your wood deck to keep it looking great for years to come. The experts at BEHR  recommend the following checklist when looking over your deck for problems.
loose or corroded fasteners. Nails and screws can come loose or break as a deck settles, and it’s easy to trip and fall over a loose board. Instead of nailing the boards back into place, remove nails and use deck screws. This is easily done with an inexpensive attachment to your power drill.
Check for split or cracked boards. If you discover any severely cracked decks boards, these can be removed, flipped over and reattached. Since the underside of the board hasn’t been exposed to the sun, it is very likely in almost as good a shape as it was when the deck was first built.
Check your railings and banisters. When you push against railings and banisters there should be no movement. Take the time to make sure no balusters are loose or missing.
Clean your deck. Use a broom or hose to sweep or wash away any leaves or other debris. For a more thorough cleaning, use a solution of three quarts water, one quart bleach, and a half cup of ammonia-free detergent. Caution: do not mix ammonia with bleach, it can form a dangerous gas. Apply  the mixture to the deck with a stiff floor brush and let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse thoroughly. You can also use a solution made with hot water and powdered laundry detergent, which will act as an abrasive and a cleanser.
Caution about using pressure washers. Pressure washers can provide a good, strong spray to help clean your deck. But be careful. If the spray is too strong or you use the nozzle too close to the deck surface, you could damage or splinter the wood very easily. Often, a strong spray from a garden hose nozzle is all that is needed.
If you want to cut down on how often you need to prep and stain your wood deck, we recommend using BEHR Premium Exterior Weatherproofing Wood Stains and Finishes. First, you will need to decide which type of stain or finish you want. There are two types of wood stain: semi-transparent and solid color. Once applied, the wood’s grain will still be visible with a solid color stain.
BEHR’s line utilizes a 100 percent acrylic formula that protects decks, siding and fences from sun, rain, snow and ice. This advanced formula allows the stains and finishes to penetrate even deeper into wood fibers and provide a superior adhesive bond to the wood substrate. Made with NanoGuard® technology, the improved formulation was developed to enhance resistance against moisture, UV damage and stains – the result is improved surface protection and longevity. Additional benefits include better adhesion which reduces the likelihood of peeling, improves performance over knots and increases color retention.
What’s more, following the successful introduction of paint samples for the BEHR Premium Plus and Premium Plus Ultra paint lines, BEHR is also offering 8 ounce samples of Premium Solid Color and Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Wood Stains to allow consumers to test color and opacity before making larger product decisions or to use on smaller do-it-yourself projects.
BEHR’s Premium Solid Color Weatherproofing stain is available in over 1,600 colors and has been formulated for computer color matching. The newly-reformulated BEHR Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Stain is available in 83 custom colors.
“Consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits produced by these significant formula upgrades,” said Tom Lee, vice president of marketing, Behr Process Corporation. “The advanced 100 percent acrylic formulation offers complete protection against the elements, so you get a beautiful-looking, longer-lasting exterior wood surface.”
BEHR Premium Exterior Weatherproofing Wood Stains & Finishes are currently available exclusively at The Home Depot stores. More information is available at www.behr.com . You can also follow BEHR on Twitter at twitter.com/behrpaint  and friend BEHR on Facebook at facebook.com/pages/BehrPaint . Now that you’ve learned how to prep and stain your wood deck, you will be able to enjoy a well-maintained outdoor living space for years to come.