Traditional wood decks are highly vulnerable to natural elements, which quickly cause deterioration. When a deck’s integrity is compromised it poses risks to anyone using it.
Re-seal and re-stain your deck regularly. Sealants protect the wood from sun, water, and salt damage and stains allow you to change the color without compromising the strength of the deck boards.
While it’s easy to assume that wood deck posts are strong enough to withstand the weight of people and objects, they can fall victim to rot. This is a common problem caused by wet or dry rot, a fungal infestation that thrives in the damp environment underneath your Deck’s lumber parts.
You can often tell when a post has rotted because the outer wood may look relatively intact but the inside will feel soft and spongy and have a discolored or bubbling appearance. The rotting often causes the wood to crumble when you probe it with a screwdriver or hammer.
The best way to prevent a post from rotting is by ensuring that it’s properly fastened to the rim joist or beam that it supports. A deck inspector advised us that the most common mistake made in building these connections is using nails instead of lag screws or carriage bolts. For a solid connection, use 1/2-in.-diameter galvanized carriage bolts with washers and nuts. These are available in most home improvement centers and can easily be cut to size with a hacksaw.
Once the rotted post is removed, you can strengthen the connection with the joist or beam by adding these bolts. You may also choose to add a wedge anchor, which consists of a metal plate that is nailed to the bottom of the post. This is a more costly option but is effective at stopping the post from moving or falling out of place.
It’s important to support the deck with a jack while working on these connections. Otherwise, the deck could collapse as you lift a joist or post for replacement. If you don’t have a hydraulic jack, a floor jack and two 2×6 boards nailed together should work just fine.
You should also have a plan for discarding the old post and any other debris that you remove from the deck. These materials are too voluminous and heavy to include in your regular trash pick-up, and many municipalities have restrictions about disposing of building materials with household garbage. It’s typically more economical to rent a roll-off dumpster for this purpose.
Wooden decking expands and contracts in response to moisture and sunlight, causing some nails or screws to loosen. If left unchecked, this may result in a loose board that sags or poses safety hazards. A home improvement enthusiast can correct this issue with fasteners available at most home centers and building material outlets. First, carefully inspect the boards. Poke each one with the tip of a screwdriver to see if the wood easily sinks in or feels soft. This is a sign of dry rot, which can be exacerbated by insects and water damage.
If the board is rotting or split, it should be removed and replaced. This can be a time-consuming job, but the results are worth it. A loose board that does not have obvious damage, however, can be fixed by removing the nail or screw, gently prying out the old board and nailing in a new one with 2X4 cleats. These cleats should be cut to the same length as the joist and installed so that their top edges are flush with the side of the joist.
The joists and supports that form the framework of your deck are especially vulnerable to rot, and it is essential that you check them regularly. If you find a structural problem, it’s important to consult an experienced contractor as soon as possible. In some cases, a full joist replacement will be required. In other cases, a quick fix will be enough. A common DIY alternative to a complete joist repair is the replacement of a joist hanger. These galvanized steel or aluminum brackets connect the joists to the ledger board and front structural beams of your deck.
A joist hanger replacement is easy to do and can be accomplished with a screw gun and a pry bar or hammer. First, remove the decking nails that attach the existing joist hanger to the board. Then, remove the old joist hanger and nail or screw 2X4 blocks flat to the side of the joist at each end of the hole. Nail or screw the new joist hanger to the block.
A deck takes a beating from the elements year after year. It’s not unusual to see damage to the boards over time, from wood rot to cracks or splintering, but you can easily fix these issues and have your deck ready for entertaining guests again.
Look for signs of rot on the deck, especially in joints and areas where fasteners are placed. If the tips of your screwdriver can sink in easily, you may have a problem with rot that needs to be repaired. Wood rot is common in the area of the deck’s ledger board and fascia board, where moisture can get trapped between boards. If left unchecked, this can cause the entire structure to deteriorate.
When you notice a cracked deck board, remove the nails with a hammer and pry bar to lift and remove the old board. If the board is rotting or severely damaged, it will need to be replaced entirely. If it’s a smaller crack, however, you can repair it by cutting out the damaged section with a circular saw and replacing it with a new piece of lumber. Measure the length, width and thickness of the new board before purchasing it to ensure a smooth fit. It’s also a good idea to use the same type of lumber in the replacement section as you did with the original board, to prevent the patch from standing out in an unattractive manner.
If the crack is a few inches long, you can fill it in with a latex wood putty that matches your deck stain, such as Minwax’s. This product is easy to apply and doesn’t require sanding after it dries. You can even color match this wood putty to your existing Minwax stain, so the repair blends in seamlessly with the rest of your deck.
A less invasive option for deck repair is replacing the joist hanger, which is a galvanized steel or aluminum bracket that connects your deck’s joists to the ledger board and front structural beams. When one of these is loose, it can cause the joist to sag and bow, which means the deck is no longer safe for walking on. This is an easy DIY project, and you can find new joist hangers at most home improvement stores.
A deck with loose railings poses a serious safety hazard. If someone trips over them, they could fall off the deck altogether. Even if the railing itself looks fine, it is a good idea to replace it with something newer and more durable. Wood, metal, and plastic are all options for new railings. Wood, however, is often preferred due to its natural aesthetic and affordability. It also doesn’t suffer from the rapid deterioration of other materials, and it is not susceptible to rusting like metal.
Loose wooden railings can be fixed by re-securing them to their mounting hardware, which is usually installed using lag screws or bolts. If you use these kinds of fasteners on your deck, be sure to regularly check them for signs of rust or looseness. Cleaning any rusted spots with white vinegar will help to keep them in good condition for longer, and will prevent the problem from getting worse.
Another way to fix a loose deck railing is to install an additional post-mounting hardware kit that uses nylon or steel rail connectors. These are much stronger than nails and will hold your railings more securely in place over time. Another option is to mount extra blocking between the rim joists of your deck, in a zig-zag pattern. This will increase the strength of the railings’ connection to the joists, and will stop them from bouncing over time.
For these kinds of repairs, you’ll want to have a few basic tools on hand, including a tape measure, shovel, circular saw, and a drill. You’ll also need a bag of screws and other hardware, depending on what needs to be replaced or tightened. Before starting any work on your deck, it is important to make sure that it is as clean as possible, so dirt and debris won’t get sucked into the open holes where screws are used. If you’re repairing a loose railing, it is also a good idea to remove any decorative covers that are covering the screws that will be used to attach it. This will make the job much easier.