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  • Writer's pictureFallyn Fournier

"Is It Time to Repair or Replace Your Deck? How to Make the Right Decision for Your Home"


With spring weather finally arriving, most of us find ourselves starting cleanup and dreaming of what our yards should look like. If you find yourself stepping out onto your deck dreading the maintenance, cleaning, sanding, painting and staining, then it might be time for a renovation! The questions many homeowners find themselves asking are "How do I know if I should repair or replace my deck?" and "Can I reuse the framing?"

Let's take a look into some of the warning signs that your deck is in need of some serious attention and may need to be replaced.

Easy to see warning signs

  • Sagging, Bending or out of square.

    • If your deck has spots that have noticeably shifted from their original position it's a sign that the framing is no longer able to support the load it is carrying. Important places to look first are in the middle of the frame or the corners of the deck where sagging would be most apparent. It is also important to look at any load bearing posts running from the deck to the ground. If these seem to be leaning rather than perfectly straight, there is a definite issue with either the frame or the footings. The same can be said for railing posts. If the railings are not plumb, it could point to parts of the framing that are compromised.

  • Rot and Sun Damage

    • Over time, exposure to water and heat can cause severe damage to decks. Obvious holes and soft spots are an easy thing to spot but there could be more damage going on that isn't as easy to see. If you have joists that are thicker on one side than another it is a sign that water damage has set in and may be causing the swelling. You can also examine areas that tend to grow algae, as they may be retaining moisture. Sun damage erodes the deck and you would find that the wood has become dry and brittle. Often times these boards will tend to twist and curl away from the frame as well.

  • Cracks, Splits and Separation

    • Wood commonly has some minor splits and cracks, which are ok, but larger cracks can deepen over time and become bigger issues. If you notice any places where an obvious split has occurred, these boards are now compromised. Other important spots to look at are around any fasteners used to join the wood together. If there are gaps forming at seams between the boards, especially where fasteners have been used, it is a sign that wood no longer has enough structural integrity to hold nails or screws. Examples could be deck boards coming loose, nails sticking up, the rim of the frame separating from the joists, or the joists separating from the ledger against the house. All of these are very common situations as decks age.

Not all issues are as easy to see and some can't be found unless the deck has been taken apart. The two most common hidden issues are: rot where the ledger board meets the house and splits from fasteners securing decking to the joists.

In terms of rot we find it on about 25% homes in New England which makes it a common problem that needs to be taken care of. Having a contractor who is comfortable taking on these kinds of repairs is an important consideration when making the decision of who to hire. Another good thing to be aware of is that the process of removing the decking and railings can cause more damage to an existing frame above what time has already done. With any preexisting frame that could mean more work that has to be done to fix it or bring it up to the standards of building codes, sometimes costing as much as a new replacement deck.

Let's take a look at what we found when we tore the deck down that's pictured at the beginning of this article. This is an example of some severe damage due to water. It occurred due to improper joining of the deck to the home. There will also be a picture of typical joists during decking removal. You will notice splits and chipping where screws were used to fasten the decking to the frame. These splits can actually cause rot to start from the inside of the joists compromising them without obvious external signs.

There are many warning signs. Some are very obvious and other important ones are not. At the end of the day, the cost to repair an old frame is simply not worth it when a brand new frame could be very close in cost. Why is this so important? Here are a few big reasons.

  • Many manufacturer warranties require installation on young (under 5 years) or new frames.

  • If the materials have been installed, there is no guarantee they can be reused if you have to rebuild the frame later.

  • Your return on your investment is significantly less as you will not be able to enjoy the benefits of the composite materials when the frame rots out in a couple years.

Should you repair or replace your deck? Our recommendation is usually to replace. It is the only way to guarantee that all issues with the deck have been completely taken care of. The truth of it is that the project will be very similar in cost whether you choose to repair and resurface the old frame or replace it.

We have taken it one step further trying to eliminate as much pressure treated wood as we can. If we are going to replace the frame then why not replace it with galvanized steel! This way your frame could outlast the decking not the other way around. Check out more about our Composite Decks and see how we use steel framing to extend the life of your new deck!

Steel Deck Frame Waltham Mass


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