Lessons From a 10-Year Old Deck
When we built this dream deck 10 years ago in
Little Canada, MN, we made the promise that it
would last as long as the house. That's a pretty
bold statement. After 10 nasty Minnesota winters,
we decided to hold our own feet to the fire and go
back to see how the deck was holding up.
Trex composite decking
Yes, it looks great in the photo and indeed, looks nearly
as good in person. No sagging, no rot, nothing bad. And
despite heavy use, there's no sign of any wear. The decking
doesn't look quite as fresh as new; falling leaves, dirt and
party plate spills have all conspired against it. But it
wouldn't take much more than a good cleaning to spruce
If you want split-proof, rot-proof, low-maintenance decking,
skip the wood and go with composite decking. It's come
a long way in the past 10 years, with much better colors
and more realistic grain patterns. We endorse it.
All of the exposed cedar got two coats of semitransparent
stain during construction. Some of the stain has worn
off. There aren't any huge swaths of peeling going on. If
you squint your eyes, it still looks pretty fresh, but it's
about ready for a recoat.
If you want stain, put on at least two coats and buy the
best, even if it is expensive.
We crawled under the deck to do
some probing with a screwdriver
to check for rot. Not a sign of it. The
pressure-treated framing was
absolutely solid everywhere.
We even dug down around the
wooden posts to check those
below grade. They were rock
solid too. But since we used foundation-grade lumber for the posts,
that was no surprise.
Choose or special-order 2x6 and 2x4
foundation-grade treated lumber if
you're planning on using below-grade
wooden posts like ours. Build “sandwiches”
with the lumber—it'll never rot.
Cedar siding and trim
The cedar and the joinery
have held up well, with one
exception. The corner boards
on the planters have begun
to rot where they contact
Seal any end grain with stain before installation. Space
end grain above horizontal surfaces at least 1/2 in. to
keep it from wicking up moisture.