Many deck repairs can be done by homeowners with mild to moderate carpentry skills, particularly for surface issues. However, structural problems caused by extreme rot or mold and pest infestations require trained professionals like Deck Builders.
Most wood decks need resealing every one to three years. Sealants protect the surface from water, rock salt, and sun damage. Stains add color and adjust the wood’s grain.
Loose floorboards and wall boards can create gaps and squeaks when you walk over them. Fortunately, these are usually easy to repair. First, to fix a loose board, determine whether the problem is that it’s not making adequate contact with the support joist below. A squeak usually means this, while a deeper-sounding creak typically indicates that the joist is sagging.
If the squeak is caused by a lack of contact, you’ll need to drive some nails into it. Choose nails that are similar in size to the existing ones and that have a matching head (wide-bladed chisels with mallets are best for this task). Then, either face-nail the new nail into the end of the board or anchor it with screws. Then, use wood putty to fill any resulting holes and the gap between the board and its neighbor.
Before applying any fixings to loose floorboards, it’s important to check below for pipes or wires. If you hit a water pipe this could cause serious damage and hitting electrical cables can be dangerous. Using an electronic pipe and cable detector can help but it’s often easier to simply lift the loose board and take a look.
Both plank and tongue-and-groove floorboards can develop unsightly gaps due to compression shrinkage as they age. This happens when humid air causes the boards to expand, compressing their neighbors, and then they don’t fully decompress when the dry air returns. To address this, first, soak the affected boards with a dehumidifier to remove any excess moisture.
Once the boards are dry, you can sand them and apply a fresh coat of stain to restore their appearance. It’s important to use a good quality stain and to wait for sunny weather before staining to ensure the best results. Stains will last longer and have better color retention when they’re applied to a clean deck. You’ll also get a more even finish if you sand the boards before staining them. If a stained deck has begun to discolor, washing the boards with a mild bleach solution should help.
Cracked or Split Planks
Cracked or split planks often occur as a natural part of aging deck boards. While they might not be very attractive, they usually don’t affect the structural integrity of the deck unless they extend through the bottoms of the board or the joists underneath them. The easiest way to fix these problems is simply to fill in the cracks with wood filler. Once the cracks are filled and sanded down, they’ll blend in perfectly with the rest of your deck boards.
Alternatively, you can replace the damaged boards with composite material. While this is not as cost-effective as repairing or replacing the whole board, it can be less disruptive and still give your deck a brand-new appearance. If you decide to replace the planks, be sure to choose a color that complements your existing deck boards.
If the cracks are too deep to repair, you may need to replace them entirely. However, if the cracks are only on the surface of your deck board and do not cause it to warp significantly, you might be able to save them by using one of the following methods:
For small cracks that are isolated in one area, use wood putty to patch them. It’s easy to find a wood putty that matches the color of your deck, and once it sets, it’ll look like the crack never existed.
For larger cracks, you’ll need to remove the affected board and check its underside for damage. If the underside is in good shape, you can flip it over and screw it back into the joists to restore its structural integrity.
Another method is to liberally inject the cracks with waterproof resin glue. This will prevent the cracks from widening and absorbing more water in humid weather. Make sure to use a waterproof epoxy rather than wood putty, which will crack over time.
This method relies on capillary action to draw a special epoxy into the crack, saturating and bonding all exposed wood inside the crack. The epoxy is catalytically hardened, so it will also seal the crack permanently. Penetrating epoxy is thin enough to work this way, but you might need to wait several hours for it to fully harden.
Rotted or Broken Boards
If a deck board has rotted or broken completely, it will need to be replaced. It’s important to replace rotten boards as soon as possible to prevent the fungus that causes wood rot from spreading. This will not only improve the appearance of your deck, but it will also help to preserve and strengthen the structure of the deck.
Moisture is the root cause of rot, so it’s important to keep your deck free of standing water as much as possible. This will help to prevent mold growth, which may cause a variety of health issues and can be difficult to remove once it starts to spread. It will also prevent rot from destroying the wooden beams that give your deck its strength and stability.
While moisture is a major cause of rot, there are other reasons that your deck may be prone to decay. Ground contact between the deck supports and the soil, leaking gutters, over-watered flowerpots on your deck, and insufficient ventilation beneath the deck are all potential problems that can lead to rot.
When you notice a section of your deck with rot, you should look for long sheets of greyish mold or darker wood that are softer than the surrounding wood. You should also check for signs of pest damage as dry rot attracts wood-eating insects like termites and carpenter bees.
You should then use a brush and cleaner to remove the loose dirt, mildew, and debris from the affected area of your deck. Once the area has been cleaned, you can then use a putty knife to mix wood filler and apply a generous amount to the affected section of your deck. After applying the wood filler, you should then use a sanding block or sandpaper to shape the filled area to match the surface of your deck.
Once the damaged area is properly filled and sanded, you will need to apply a coat of deck stain to the entire deck to help prevent future damage from the rot. It’s also recommended that you clean and seal your deck regularly to prevent rot from forming in the first place.
While wood railings can be painted to provide some protection from the elements, they are vulnerable to moisture that leads to rotting. When a deck’s railings begin to show signs of rot, such as feeling spongy or looking dark in color, it’s important to take immediate action. If left unchecked, rotting and decay will eventually lead to the need to replace your deck’s railings.
If you have metal porch railings, they are also susceptible to damage from environmental factors like wind and rain. Even if you don’t see any cracks or holes, you should still regularly check your metal railings for signs of damage, such as rust spots and loose balusters. If you find any of these problems, it’s a good idea to contact an experienced welder to repair the area.
Metal railings are generally more durable than other materials like wood, but they can still deteriorate over time. If the masonry anchors that hold your metal railing posts in place aren’t made from high-quality material or are at the end of their lifespan, they may begin to loosen from the deck surface. This can make your deck feel wobbly or unsafe to walk on.
In some cases, it may be easier to remove the entire section of your metal railing and replace it with a new one rather than try to repair the damaged part of it. If you decide to go this route, it’s a good idea to use a hammer drill with a masonry bit or a power chisel and wear eye protection. Be sure to carefully chip away any rusted sections of your railing and clean up any sharp pieces before you install the new one.
If you’re repairing a rusted or loose metal porch railing, it’s a good idea to prime the surface after removing any rust spots with an oil-based primer intended for use with metal. Then, spray a corrosion inhibitor on the cut edges to help keep your new metal railing from corroding again. Finally, you should repaint the repaired area with a high-quality exterior paint that matches your existing color scheme.