As the snow starts to melt and there are more warm days than cooler ones, people start to see just what damage old man winter did to their outdoor decks. As you take stock of chipped paint and warped boards, how can you decide if it’s worth repairing or if it’s time to scrap the whole thing and start again?
Before we get in to the details, first a few notes. Just because a deck is 20 years old is no guarantee it needs fully replaced. And even if a deck was built two years ago, that doesn’t mean it’s obviously just a repair job. The type of materials used and the way it was built do far more to determine the longevity of a deck than years built. From 2003 to 2017, there have been an estimated 6,500 injuries resulting from deck construction failure, and 29 deaths.* Your number one concern should be safety of use. Second is aesthetics.
Planks. Deck planks are heavily exposed to the elements. This flat top surface is constantly rained on, snowed on, and baking in the sun, so it is natural to expect wear. If it’s fading or splinters that you’re seeing, you can likely just re-finish the walking surface. If it’s a cracked board, you can likely just replace the individual boards that need it. If you are looking at insect damage, rot, or warping, you may be looking at a larger project, as your supporting structure will likely reflect a similar state.
Posts. Examine the base of your posts where they meet the ground. This is where you will see maximum moisture damage, giving you the best view of the posts underlying stability. If you find dirt, rot, and water damage, you can replace a post, or even two, without requiring a re-build. If most of your posts show the same damage, you have a structural concern to consider.
Joists. If, upon inspection, you find soft wood in your joists, you are likely to need a replacement. These cross beams are critical to sound structure and weakness can be a major problem.
Railings. Apply outward and inward pressure on your railings. If they wiggle, you should consider examining their fasteners and the state of the wood. You may be able to tighten the hold with a few fresh fasteners, or you may need to replace the rails entirely. Loose rails are extremely dangerous to occupants. The good news is that failing rails don’t indicate a full replacement deck is needed most of the time.
Ledger Board. The board that acts as the joining force between building and deck needs to be solid. Weakness and rotting here can cause the deck to collapse in the event of excessive weight. This can generally be replaced without a total re-build. If the ledger board is pulling away from the house, leaving a gap, this means your whole structure is shifted from its original position and you need to consider rebuilding.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking at a total new construction, consider composite decking as your material. While the initial price tag is higher than pressure-treated lumber, composite decking is made of recycled materials, resists fading, never splinters or rots, comes in a variety of colors, repels destructive insects, lasts over 30 years, and only needs a quick scrub once a year.
Whether you are looking to repair or replace your outdoor deck, craftsmanship and quality materials make a difference in when you’ll have to do it next. Consider using the InvisiDeck® Hidden SCRAIL® Deck Fastening System. This deck fastening system creates a completely smooth finish with no visible fasteners. Designed to be used with grooved boards, it can be adapted for use in non-grooved hardwood or composite materials with the use of BECK's groove cutter. The clips and SCRAIL® are installed under the deck's surface, and hold tight without being seen. You’ll extend the life of your deck, and reduce the need for repairs next year.
Download the "Materials, Fasteners, Tools for Composite Deck Whitepaper below.