31 Tips for Repairing, Updating and Maximizing Your Deck
If you’ve had a deck for more than a couple years, chances are it’ll need some work. After all, it spends 365 days a year exposed to the elements. Check out this collection of hints and tips for repairing and replacing deck parts, and adding some comfort, too.
Check Your Deck
Install a Roof Under the Deck
If you have untapped space under your deck, you may be able to convert it into a dry, spacious second outdoor living area. One of the major upgrades that would make this necessary is constructing a roof that catches water that drips through the deck boards and redirects it outside of the new patio area. Commercial systems are available to solve this problem, but one of our fearless readers came up with a low-cost DIY system using corrugated fiberglass panels. Adding gutters, though optional, prevents the draining water from splashing onto the patio. We’ve broken down all the steps you need to know–check them out here.
Build Your Dream Deck
A deck doesn’t need to be big in size to be big on features. We’ve got the plans for everything you’ve ever wanted in a deck: cantilevered seating nooks, a cedar pergola for shade, detailed horizontal railings and cascading stairs, to name a few. It’s the perfect space to fire up the grill, read a book, enjoy breakfast or set up a hammock for afternoon open-air naps. It’s a big project, but one that you could complete in about two weeks if you’ve got some carpentry skills and a buddy. We’ve mapped out all the steps you need to achieve this unique, dreamy outdoor space–get the plans here.
Shade your deck
You don’t have to let the blazing sun or drippy weather drive you indoors. This simple covered pergola will keep you and your guests comfortable in any weather. Get step-by-step plans here.
Railing-Mounted Deck Planter
Enhance Decks with Lighting
Refinish the Deck
Restore Your Deck
Stiffen Wobbly Deck Railings
Deck posts and railings screwed to a single rim joist feel wobbly because the rim joist flexes whenever you lean against the railing. Adding blocking will stiffen the rim joist and make the railing feel much more solid.
First, tighten any loose bolts and screws. If the post doesn’t have bolts, add them—carriage bolts work best.
Cut pressure-treated 2-by blocking (the same width as the floor joists) to fit tightly between the rim joist and the next joist. Place the blocking directly behind the post and toe-screw it into both the rim joist and the neighboring joist. Fasten additional blocking every 4 ft. along the rim joist.
Deck Remodel in a Can
Movable Deck Umbrella
Does your deck umbrella always seem to be in the wrong spot to shade you from the sun? To help get it in the right spot, mount several sets of galvanized plumbing pipe straps on the deck posts or railing in key places. Use straps with a slightly wider diameter than that of the umbrella pole. Then slip the umbrella pole through the straps until the bottom of the pole rests on the deck. Now you can put shade right where you need it.
Peeling Deck Stain
Why does deck stain peel? Because it didn’t penetrate into the wood like it should have. Instead, the stain formed a film, which always peels in a few years.
If this happens to your deck, chances are that you didn’t prepare your deck properly before restaining. You should have stripped and pressure washed the wood to remove dirt, debris and old stain before you applied the new stain. This opens up the wood and allows the next coat to penetrate better.
It’s also possible that you applied the old stain too heavily. If it formed puddles and was left to dry, you’ll get a film.
In either case, strip the old stain off the deck to fix the problem. Deck stripper is available by the gallon at home centers, hardware stores and paint stores. Rinse off the stripper with a pressure washer, keeping the pressure low to avoid damaging the wood. Let the deck dry for a few days, then apply a new coat of stain.
Add Shade With Canopies and Awnings
Sometimes that summer sun can get a little too warm, which is why building a canopy, awning or other type of shade is a great patio improvement project. These additions are affordable and easy to set up. Awnings and latticework, in particular, allow you to add more shade or remove shade based on the weather. Remember, shade over cooking and eating areas is most useful.
Build It In
Adding outdoor lighting in the form of built-in illumination is an easy and inexpensive way to create mood lighting and add custom detail to your deck. Learn how to install deck lighting with no electrical skills needed and come away with stairways and handrails that create safety and function. Pro tip: finish off your custom lighting with solar powered post caps that will protect wood posts and add an additional element of light to your outdoor space.
Shade Your Outdoor Space
Decks are meant to enable you to spend your days in the fresh open air, but sometimes the heat can be prohibitive. To shade your space (and block harmful ultraviolet rays) there are many different options on the market designed to fit a variety of budgets, styles and deck sizes. Canopy awnings, for example, may be a good fit if you’re looking for a permanent structure that won’t retract, but can be removed seasonally if desired. Retractable awnings offer the choice of shade or sun instantly. If you’d prefer more of a built-in structure, building a pergola or a covered deck may be a better choice. To read more on these options and more, check out our guide to shading your outdoor space.
Tiered Plant Stand
Arbor and Benches
Deck Board Spacers
These yellow deck board spacers can be used to space boards either 1/8 in. or 3/16 in. apart. Large spacers like these work well because they’re easy to grab and pull out, and less likely to fall down between the boards. They’re also highly visible, which makes them less of a trip hazard. You can find deck spacers at some home centers or online.
Choosing Deck Materials
In addition to selecting the color of deck boards, you’ll also have to decide on the color of the fascia boards, railings, spindles, hardware, posts and caps. And those aren’t easy decisions, especially when all you have to go on is a brochure with tiny color swatches. Azek has a new, free app for the iPad that can help. Check it out at Azek.com or the App Store on iTunes. The app allows you to change the color and texture on several different stock deck scenes, and once you find the combination that suits you best, there’s a place to keep notes so you won’t forget and have to start all over.
Visualizers like this are super handy, but nothing beats a trip to the supplier to check out samples of the actual products. Feel the texture of the materials and if there’s a display, take off your shoes and walk around on it.
Photo provided by Azek
Best Way to Flash a Ledger Board
Deck ledger boards are a common source of water infiltration, and it can be years before you discover the damage caused by water finding its way behind the ledger and into your home. The process below may seem a little excessive, but the extra time spent following these steps may save you thousands of dollars in repairs.
- Install house wrap on the wall several inches higher than where the top of the ledger board will be.
- Install Z-flashing approved for pressure-treated lumber where the bottom of the ledger will be.
- Cover the top of the Z-flashing with house wrap tape.
- Fasten the ledger board over the Z-flashing.
- Install flashing approved for pressure-treated lumber on top of the ledger.
- Cover the top of the flashing with window/door flashing tape.
- Install house wrap over the flashing.
- Fasten the house wrap to the wall with house wrap tape.
- Install the siding.
Just a few years ago, most manufactured decking was “composite,” typically a combination of wood fibers and polymers. Composite was a big improvement over wood, but today most manufacturers offer something even better: “capped” or “shelled” decking.
The core of capped decking is similar to composite or made from cellular PVC, but that core is covered with a layer of denser, tougher polymer. That means better resistance to scratches, stains and fading. Brands include Azek.com, TimberTech.com and Trex.com. Paying more usually gets you a thicker or tougher cap, plus deeper texturing and blended coloring for a more natural look. The decking shown, Trex Transcend, is made from 95 percent recycled material and includes a 25-year fade and stain warranty.
When to Use Structural Screws
Structural screws work great for hanging a ledger board and fastening thick framing members. The main advantage of structural screws over traditional lag screws is that they don’t need a pilot hole, which cuts the installation time in half! The Strong-Drive TIMBER Screws shown here have a low-profile head and are driven in with a large Torx bit. An 18-volt impact driver or 1/2-in. drill should be enough to get the job done.
Hide Ugly Deck Board Ends
The ends of manufactured deck boards are ugly, and you don’t want to leave them exposed. There are a couple ways to hide them. The easiest solution is to raise the fascia board so the top is flush with the top of the decking (top). But keep in mind that most fascia/skirt boards are 11-1/4 in. wide, which means they aren’t wide enough to fully cover both the deck boards and a 2×12 joist.
Another way to hide the ends is to install a border/perimeter board around the outside edges of the deck (bottom). This method can really dress up your deck, especially if you choose an accent color for this board. The downside of a perimeter board is that it requires extra framing underneath.
Engineered Lumber for Outoor Use
Engineered lumber has been used inside buildings for years because it’s stronger and straighter than regular lumber. And now there are versions for outdoor use. It may not be cost effective to frame an entire deck with engineered lumber, but installing an engineered-lumber drop beam is a great way to reduce the number of posts and footings needed to support a deck. The one shown here is made by Weyerhaeuser.
Photo provided by Weyerhaeuser
Deck Board Fastening Options
Screwing through the face of the boards is by far the fastest, easiest and most structurally sound method of fastening deck boards. Modern deck screws have reverse threads to suck the decking down tight to the joists and specially designed heads to prevent mushrooming. Some face-screwing systems, like the Cortex system from FastenMaster, allow you to countersink the screws and fill the holes with plugs made out of the same material as the decking. Installing the plugs is time consuming, but the fastener locations are almost invisible.
Boards with grooves on the sides can be held down with hidden fasteners. Hidden fasteners are self-gapping and easy to install, and you can’t beat them if you want a nice, clean, fastener-free look. Each decking manufacturer has a recommended fastening system. Avoid the kind that require fastening from underneath. Also select a fastening system that doesn’t require removing half the deck in order to replace one damaged board in the middle.
Avoid Deck Rot with Flashing Tape
Pressure-treated lumber that stays wet will eventually rot. Flashing tape keeps water from getting trapped between doubled-up joists. If you’re resurfacing an existing deck frame, tape over any joists that have a lot of holes from the previous nails or screws. Buy black tape if you can find it; shiny silver and white tapes may be noticeable between the gaps in the decking. The tape shown will be covered by the perimeter deck board.
Blocking Keeps Decks Flat and Square
Manufactured decking isn’t as stiff as wood decking, so it allows joists to bow. And that leads to a wavy deck surface. To help keep joists flat, always attach blocking perpendicular to the joists. Also, install diagonal blocking to keep the entire frame from racking. Use narrower lumber (2×8 blocking on 2×10 joists) so the blocking looks less conspicuous from a distance. Once everything is secure, run a string on the top side of the joists and plane down the remaining high spots.
Maintenance-Free Deck Posts
One way to spruce up posts is to cover them with a maintenance-free material. AZEK makes a PVC Column Wrap that’s super easy to install. Simply glue together three sides, slide them over the post, glue and clamp the last side in place, and then never worry about painting or staining again. AZEK Column Wrap is available for 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 posts. Order it at home centers and lumberyards that carry Azek products.
Maintenance-Free Deck Balusters
New metal balusters can give your existing wood deck a sleek, modern look. These two options are made by Deckorators. The Baroque Balusters are simply screwed to rails. The round Classic Balusters are held in place by hidden connectors that require no hole drilling. Deckorators balusters don’t need to be painted or stained, which is probably the most tedious deck maintenance task there is.
No-Dig Deck Footings
Some pros have given up constructing concrete deck footings. Instead, they’re using the Diamond Pier foundation system. To install a Diamond Pier footing, just drive in four pipes with a demo hammer. That eliminates a ton of digging and concrete work.
The standard deck model is the DP-50. Most home centers and lumberyards that carry this product will also have breaker hammers you could borrow or rent. Check out the videos at pinfoundations.com. The Diamond Pier system is relatively new, and you need to make sure it’s approved in your area.
Precision Deck Screw Sinker
When you’re screwing decking, this Smart-Bit Deck Screw Depth Setter is a great tool to make sure all the screws are set at a consistent depth. The type of bit can be changed to match the screws, and the depth of the screws can be adjusted. This tool also has a free-spinning collar with a rubber bumper to prevent marring.
Water-Shedding Composite Decking
DuxxBak decking is a unique composite decking that doesn’t allow water to pass between the deck boards, keeping the area under the deck dry. A dry space under the deck is a great place to continue your deck party during a rain shower, or to create some useful dry storage.
In order to channel the water away, the decking needs to run perpendicular to the house, so remember to install the framing joists parallel to the house. And make sure the substructure has enough slope to carry the water away.
Go to greenbaydecking.com to find more information on DuxxBak and locate a dealer.