Five Solutions for a shabby deck
To revive a shabby deck, there are five main directions you can go, and we’ll guide you through them all.
Solution 1: Clean & refinish
The basics of refinishing a deck are pretty straightforward: Strip, clean, stain, ?repeat! It’s a tough chore that might take you several days to complete, one you’ll have to do every few years to keep your deck looking great. But all that hard work has a huge payoff! When you’re finished, your all-wood deck will look almost as good as it did the day it was built. Here are some things to think about before tackling the job yourself.
A pressure washer does a great job of cleaning your deck and stripping old finishes. They’re available as gas or electric models and vary widely in price—anywhere from $70 to $1,000 at home centers. You can also rent one for about $80 per day. You can get the job done without a pressure washer, but it’s a real time and labor saver. For more information about choosing and using pressure washers, visit tfhmag.com/pressurewasher
There’s a Blade for That: The Many Types of Reciprocating Saw Blades
Bimetal demolition blade for nail-embedded wood
Diamond-grit blade for cast iron
Carbide grit for tile and clay
Fine-tooth metal-cutting blade
Carbide-tip blade for cutting bricks and masonry
Blade for ripping through plaster
Scraper; handy for pulling up old vinyl tiles
Double-edged bore blade for multidirectional cuts, and rounded end for easy plunge cutting
Bidirectional-tooth pruning blade
Wire brush attachment; handy for scraping rusty metal or flaking paint
Solution 2: Deck Restoration Coatings
Deck restoration coatings are acrylic based and go on like really thick paint. You’ll need to apply two coats. Once dry, they form a coating similar in appearance to composite decking.
A word of caution about these products: We found many online complaints and even some reports of lawsuits related to peeling of deck coating products not long after application. It’s very important to follow preparation instructions from the manufacturer, which might include power washing and application of a prime coat. Bottom line: Read the manufacturer’s instructions before use and contact the company directly if you have questions or concerns about whether it’ll work for your particular situation.
Image credit: Rust-oleum
Solution 3: Replace the Deck Boards
It’s not the easiest option, but replacing your wooden deck boards with synthetic decking (composite or PVC) might be your best investment, in both time and money. In just a few weekends and with basic carpentry tools, you can have a stunning deck that looks brand new and will look great for many years.
Costs vary widely for synthetic decking, but expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $10 per square foot. Be warned, however, that synthetic decking requires closer spacing of joists and stair stringers (maximum 16 in. apart), so you might have lots of framing to do.
Cost: Varies widely, but generally $5 to $10 per sq. ft.
Life Span: Can easily last 20 years or more.
- Low maintenance – just needs occasional cleaning.
- Stands up well to heavy traffic.
- Lasts for decades.
- Can use screws or hidden fasteners.
- Wood grain patterns available with many brands.
- Lots of color choices.
- You’ll have to tear off the old decking first – a huge job.
- Gets very hot when the sun hits it (especially dark colors and dense boards).
- Doesn’t look like real wood (but some brands come close).
- Can be slippery when wet.
- You’ll need a building permit and inspection.
- It’s a lot of work to install.
- You’ll need a dumpster for all the old material.
17 Ways to Master Using Spray Foam at Home
Stop Drafts—and Mice!
Add an Extension Tube
Dampen for Fast Curing
For Pre-Cure Cleanup
Check the Expiration Date
Firm Up a Wobbly Showerhead
Squirt a little expanding foam around a loose shower arm, and it'll be solid as a rock. Let the foam set up until it's stiff and carve off any excess around the shower arm. Slide the cover plate tight to the wall and you'll never know there's foam holding things together. This same trick firms up any other loose or wobbly pipe.
Splurge on a Gun—You Won't Regret It
If you've got more than a few windows or doors to seal with foam or are planning to make the whole house airtight, you should consider investing in a gun to dispense the foam. A basic model like the one shown here costs about $30. Guns have several advantages over cans with plastic straw applicators. First, turning the knob on the back adjusts the flow rate, so you can dial in the size of the foam bead to match the project. The long, rigid tip gives you better control and access, especially with the added disposable tip attached.
When you're done using the foam for the day, just wipe off the tip and set the whole works aside. A ball in the tip seals in the foam so it won't cure in the gun. You can leave it like this for up to a month without cleaning. When you do want to clean up the gun, buy a can of cleaner, screw it on, and spray until the gun is clean. You can also buy cans of urethane adhesive and use the gun to apply it.
Cut Cured Foam With a Bread Knife
A serrated knife with a flexible blade is perfect for cutting off excess foam. Just make sure the foam is completely cured and firm all the way through or it'll stick to the blade.
Be Careful Where You Set the Can!
Seal Foam With Foam
Basement or crawl space rim joists are a major source of energy loss in a house, so it's well worth the effort to add insulation and seal any cracks and gaps. A good DIY approach is to cut rigid foam insulation to fit between the joists. Cut it about 1/2 in. undersized so it's easy to fit in. Shim the rigid foam in place with little chunks of foam. Then fill the space around it with expanding foam. Don't forget to caulk or foam the joint between the sill plate and the foundation too.
Leave Accidents Alone
When foam goes where you don't want it, you'll be tempted to wipe it up. DON'T! You'll only spread the goo and make the mess worse. Instead, let it harden completely and then scrape or sand it off.
Black Foam Hides in the Shadows
What's special about 'landscaping' foam? It's black, so it disappears in the shadows. And just like other canned foam, it expands to fill irregular spaces, sticks tenaciously to almost everything including stone, and cures to form a waterproof barrier, making it ideal for plugging holes in water features or retaining walls and even gluing wobbly stones in place. You'll find this black expanding foam at garden centers, home centers and some hardware stores.
Big Holes Need a Double Dose
Protect Fragile Stuff
Got a fragile vase to ship? Encase it in foam to keep it in one piece. Start by lining the box with plastic wrap and filling it about a third of the way with foam. Let the foam stiffen enough to support the vase. Place a layer of plastic wrap on the foam. Wrap the vase in plastic wrap too. Set the vase on the foam and add a layer of plastic wrap on top. The two layers of plastic will allow the foam to separate into two pieces for easier unpacking. Now fill the rest of the box with foam. Remember, the foam will expand, so don't fill it to the top. When the foam has cured, carve off any overflowing bits and seal the box for shipping.
Play It Safe Around Windows and Doors
Sealing around windows and doors is one of the most common uses for expanding foam. But it can actually push the jamb inward, making them impossible to open. Avoid this by using minimal expanding foam. It's formulated to fill the space around windows and doors without excess expansion. Look for cans labeled for use on windows and doors. Another good idea is to fill the space with two layers. Push the applicator tip all the way to the back of the space and move it quickly along as you pull the trigger. Let this first layer expand and cure. Then add another if necessary.
Reuse the Straw
One of the biggest complaints about cans of expanding foam is that if you don't use the whole can, cured foam clogs the applicator tip and you can't use it again. There are several solutions to this problem, but the slickest we've found is to buy a can of carb and choke cleaner (at auto parts stores) and use it to clean uncured foam from the tube and trigger immediately after you're done applying foam. The acetone in carb cleaner works perfectly on expanding foam. And the straw included with the carb cleaner is just right for inserting into the foam applicator straw. Be sure to wear safety glasses because the pressurized cleaner can blow back when you're cleaning the straw.
Wear Gloves—or Wear Stains
Solution 4: Deck Tiles
Think of this option as a slipcover for your deck. Instead of ripping out or recoating your old deck boards, you place new wood or synthetic decking right over your old deck. Several companies make tiles out of composite or exotic woods like ipe that you just lay down and snap together. Plastic grids underneath the tiles allow for airflow, which helps prevent wood rot.
Image credit: Handy Deck
Solution 5: Exterior Floor Covering
DeckRite is a sheet material that comes on a roll, much like sheet vinyl flooring. It basically turns your old deck into an outdoor floor with no gaps in it and creates a watertight roof for the area beneath your deck. As long as your old deck boards are at least 5/4 thick and structurally sound, you can screw 1/2-in. pressure-treated plywood right over it and stick the flooring membrane on top. If the deck is really big, it might require multiple sheets, and you’ll need to rent a hot air welder from DeckRite to deal with the overlapped seams. Cost is about $6 per sq. ft. for all the materials you’ll need. Visit deckrite.com for more information.
Image credit: DeckRite