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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.

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Check Your DeckThe Family Handyman

Check Your Deck

Now that it's the perfect weather to spend free time entertaining outside on the deck, perform an annual inspection on the whole structure to ensure everything is safe and in top shape for your family and guests. While well-built decks will last for decades, some that are 15 or more years old, when building codes were different, or possibly the work of a DIYer who owned the home before you, warrants careful inspection for certain key things. Problems to look for are rotted or wobbly posts, weak post connections, properly-fastened ledger boards, and missing flasher ledging. Most of the wood deck repair tasks are inexpensive and you should be able to complete them yourself. Click here for the full inspection checklist, as well as detailed wood deck repair steps.

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Install a Roof Under the DeckFamily Handyman

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. Next, check out our favorite metal deck roof options.

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Build Your Dream DeckFamily Handyman

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.

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Shade your deckFamily Handyman

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.

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Railing-Mounted Deck PlanterFamily Handyman

Railing-Mounted Deck Planter

In a little under an hour, you can make this simple railing-mounted planter. All you need is some standard gutter parts. Get the plans for this deck planter here.

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Enhance Decks with LightingFamily Handyman

Enhance Decks with Lighting

Landscape lighting may seem like a complicated DIY project, but low-voltage lighting systems are actually a job any beginner can tackle. And if you make your deck the focus, the extra visibility will even add a certain level of safety. Low-voltage systems are much less dangerous that standard household wiring because the system relies on a transformer, which is plugged into a standard GFCI receptacle, to convert power from 120 volts down to 12 volts. The current travels through outdoor cables to supply power to the fixtures. There are several methods to approaching a deck lighting system – we'll show you how here.

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Refinish the DeckFamily Handyman

Refinish the Deck

There's no greater impact for your money than to refinish your deck. Decks take a huge beating by the elements, so maintaining them is essential to protect your biggest investment–your home. Prep is always the first step in any major ugly deck makeover project, so make sure to give the surfaces a good pressure washing or cleaning and remove any flaking deck stain if necessary and let it dry out thoroughly for several days. When your deck is ready for a new coat, select either a clear, solid or penetrating stain. Penetrating stains require more frequent coats in the future to stay looking new, but don't need to be stripped off again unlike solid stains. Just make sure to check the forecast and wait for a period of a few sunny days before you begin. Learn more about refinishing your deck here.

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How to Restore Your DeckFamily Handyman

How to Restore Your Deck

After a few years, your deck is sure to show some wear and tear and make you feel like you have an ugly deck. Don't rush to replace boards that are otherwise in good condition. With a deck restoration coating and a few days in the sunshine, your deck will look as good as new. Get the full how-to here. See the lighting options you need to add to your deck to make it shine at night.

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Stiffen Wobbly Deck Railings

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 for an easy wood deck repair. 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.

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Deck Remodel in a CanFamily Handyman

Deck Remodel in a Can

If your ugly deck needs a face-lift, consider using Rust-Oleum's Deck & Concrete Restore. You apply this resurfacer with a special roller sleeve, and it feels like you're rolling on liquid rubber. Because it's so thick (about the consistency of sour cream), it doesn't go far. But the result is an attractive, slip-resistant coating that should last for years. Restore is formulated for decks and concrete, but only for foot traffic and only for rougher broom-finished surfaces. It costs about a dollar per square foot, making it a whole lot cheaper and easier than installing new decking. A word to the wise: Applying it is messy, and you have to work fast if the weather is warm. It's available in 50 colors, and the pigment is added and mixed at the store. (Pro Tip: Have the staff mix it before and after the pigment is added.)

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Movable Deck Umbrella

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.

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Peeling Deck Stain

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 and makes for an ugly deck. 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 for the wood deck repair. 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.

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Add Shade With Canopies and Awningsronstik/Shutterstock

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.

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Build It Inaodaodaodaod/Shutterstock

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. Plus: How to Rebuild an Old Deck with New Decking and Railings

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Shade Your Outdoor SpaceFamily Handyman

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.

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Tiered Plant StandFamily Handyman

Tiered Plant Stand

Show off your gardening skills with this simple multi-level plant stand. It's easy to build from seven 8-ft.-long 1x2s. In just a morning, you can build this handsome, durable plant stand, perfect for indoor use or outside on a deck or patio. Get the plans for this tiered plant stand here.

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Arbor and BenchesFamily Handyman

Arbor and Benches

Build this simple seating/planter/arbor project to create a quiet, private space in your yard or on a deck. It provides shade and comfort as well as a welcome screen from neighbors. You can install it on an existing patio or build it on your deck. Get the full plans for this arbor and benches here.

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Deck Board SpacersFamily Handyman

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.

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Choosing Deck MaterialsFamily Handyman

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

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Best Way to Flash a Ledger BoardFamily Handyman

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.

  1. Install house wrap on the wall several inches higher than where the top of the ledger board will be.
  2. Install Z-flashing approved for pressure-treated lumber where the bottom of the ledger will be.
  3. Cover the top of the Z-flashing with house wrap tape.
  4. Fasten the ledger board over the Z-flashing.
  5. Install flashing approved for pressure-treated lumber on top of the ledger.
  6. Cover the top of the flashing with window/door flashing tape.
  7. Install house wrap over the flashing.
  8. Fasten the house wrap to the wall with house wrap tape.
  9. Install the siding.

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Tougher DeckingFamily Handyman

Tougher Decking

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 FiberonAzek.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.

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When to Use Structural ScrewsFamily Handyman

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.

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Hide Ugly Deck Board EndsFamily Handyman

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 2x12 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.

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Engineered Lumber for Outoor UseFamily Handyman

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

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Deck Board Fastening OptionsFamily Handyman

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.

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Avoid Deck Rot with Flashing TapeFamily Handyman

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.

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Blocking Keeps Decks Flat and SquareFamily Handyman

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 (2x8 blocking on 2x10 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.

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Maintenance-Free Deck PostsFamily Handyman

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 4x4, 6x6 and 8x8 posts. Order it at home centers and lumberyards that carry Azek products.

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Maintenance-Free Deck BalustersFamily Handyman

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.

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No-Dig Deck FootingsFamily Handyman

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.

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Precision Deck Screw SinkerFamily Handyman

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.

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Water-Shedding Composite DeckingFamily Handyman

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.