Adding on a deck is a home improvement with a tremendous return on investment: in outdoor living enjoyment and financial gain, increasing your home’s value.
While the average life of a deck spans about 25 years, depending on materials, weather, and other environmental factors, a deck can last much longer with proper maintenance.
So how do you know when to DIY a few deck repairs, when to call in a professional deck builder for a more extensive makeover, and when you need a ground-up replacement?
Signs You Need a New Deck
As you inspect your deck this autumn, look for these signs of trouble:
- Significant Damage. Almost all building materials become worn and damaged over time, especially timber. Look for big cracks, missing screws, large holes, split deck boards, and signs (like tiny holes) of termites. Pay special attention to any areas that tend to remain damp, are regularly exposed to water, or are in contact with fasteners. Use a tool like an ice pick or a screwdriver to penetrate the wood surface. If you can easily penetrate 6.35-12.7 mm, break off a sliver of wood without splinters, or the wood is soft and spongy, timber or an entire deck may need to be replaced.
- Bent or Bowed Decking Boards. When boards lift or become unsecured, they can cause trips and falls. If you walk across your deck and feel wobbly or spongy boards, beware, as they may have become weakened and unsafe. Additionally, if a board moves as you walk across it, it may have become detached from the joists.
- Rotten Timber. Any rotten timber can be a serious issue. Not only does it weaken one area, but it can spread and deteriorate other timber components over time: the more rot, the more urgent the need for a new deck. If you see water pooling around the base of the deck posts, seek a professional deck builder’s advice on the best method for diverting water away from their base. If you find just a board or two has become rotten — perhaps from a leaking gutter or another water source — you may be able to replace only the damaged board(s). Be sure to seal any new timber.
- Shaky Deck Railings. When railings become loose, you may need to repair or replace just the railing. However, you find loose railings along with other issues; you may need a complete overhaul.
- Ledger Board Damage. The ledger board connects the deck to the house and holds it in place. If it becomes compromised, the entire deck is in danger. Look carefully for any loose fittings or rot at the ledger board. If you find damage, you likely need professional advice rather than a DIY solution. The ledger board is a critical place for flashing and waterproofing.
- Missing or Rusty Hardware. Hardware is often found underneath your deck. Look closely for loose fittings and rusty or missing hardware, which is especially important for older decks.
- Older Decks. A typical timber deck can last from 15 to 40 years. Be sure to closely inspect any deck that is more than 20 years old. To make your deck last longer, be sure to seal and waterproof any timber and watch for damage.
- Busted Electrical Work. Be sure all electrical outlets, appliances, and features are up to code, are in good shape, and are childproof. Move any electrical that may be a tripping hazard.
- Unsafe Stairs. Check any railings or handrails to be sure they are firmly held in place. Also, make sure risers and stringers are securely attached and not decayed. If the area behind the stair treads is open, this opening should be no more than 101.6 mm high.
- Misplaced Heating Elements. Ensure all grills, fire pits, chimneys, heaters, and candles are safely away from flammable surfaces or that a non-flammable pad protects the deck surface. Use caution and follow manufacturers’ directions.
- Dirt and Debris. Clean away any leaves or debris, which can be slippery and promote mildew. If mildew is present or the deck coating has worn away, make time to clean and apply a new waterproofing coating to any exposed timber. It can help prevent split, decayed wood, and loosened fasteners.
Depending on your comfort level with maintenance, you can either fix issues yourself or, for more significant problems, call a contractor to help.
Why Replace an Existing Deck?
If your deck is no longer structurally sound or if the expense of repairs begins to approach the cost of a new deck, you’ll want to replace it.
However, even if your desk is safe, there may be other reasons to consider a full replacement. Your deck’s aesthetics may reach a point where you want a wholesale change to enhance your outdoor living. With a new deck, you can decide everything from colour to railings to lighting to new configurations. Depending on your deck needs, you can also plan for lighting, appliances, and décor.
Another reason to make a change: You’re tired of the maintenance. If you’ve grown weary of staining and maintaining a wood deck, you may decide to switch to composite decking materials. With Trex, you can design a new deck, pick your favourite composite materials online, and find a Trex Pro to handle construction. Not only will you have a virtually maintenance-free deck, but you’ll also have a lot of flexibility in designing the deck.
Building a new deck allows you the perfect opportunity to extend the life of the deck beyond 25 years by adding Trex Protect to the substructure. Typically, a substructure starts to rot and decay around 8 to 10 years. By installing Trex Protect flashing tape to the joists and beams, you prevent moisture penetration and help deck screws hold longer and stronger. Adding Trex Protect ensures that your deck substructure lasts as long as the deck it supports.
Whether it’s time to repair or replace, don’t put off making sure your deck is as safe as possible!