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 it up.
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 2×6 and 2×4 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 the decking.
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.