With some attention, decks can last for years—here’s how

A lot is asked of a deck. It’s laid out horizontally so water can’t run off and is lucky if it gets recoated
every few years. It bakes in the sun and freezes in the winter. Luckily, like any other wood structure,
each damaged component of a deck is replaceable.

A deck that’s seen better days but is structurally solid can always be cleaned and refinished. What
if it’s rough and splintered? Sanding a deck will bring it back to life and prepare it for a new finish.
Deck boards that are too far gone to be saved can be removed and replaced easily enough. Not as
easily replaced are deck joists, the supports that the deck boards are nailed into. Small areas of each
joist edge are exposed to the weather and usually don’t directly receive any finish during recoats as
they’re not easily accessible. Not surprisingly, these areas can deteriorate.

Replacing Deck Sections

Decking and deck rails are frequent candidates for replacement due to water exposure.

Each piece of decking, typically a 2X4 of some kind, is nailed twice at each joist.

With a large pry bar, remove any damaged boards, being sure to place a block of wood under the pry bar to avoid marring the
adjoining boards.

Replace with the same dimension and wood type and stain to match the rest of the deck (see page 38).

Repairing or Replacing Joists

If a section of a joist is deteriorated, cut away the damaged area with a reciprocating saw and coat the exposed wood with a

Cut a new joist the same length as the damaged joist.

Glue and fasten the full length joist to the old and secure at the ends in the same manner as the others.

If joist ends are damaged, cut away the damaged material, coat the exposed wood with preservative, and run a new joist the entire
length of the old.

Posts are also main supports but are replaceable or can have new sections spliced to them.
Replacing an entire deck is expensive and a lot of work, so you might consider hiring a deck
contractor. Refinishing and patching the neglected areas will go a long way in extending the life of a


Before sanding a deck, set all the nails in the decking. Often times the nail heads are sticking
up far enough to catch a piece of sandpaper and tear it. You’ll have to set the protruding nails
anyway after tearing your sandpaper, so save yourself the aggravation and set them first.

Repairing or Replacing Deck Railings

Deck railings should be functional first and decorative second while meeting local safety codes.

The top railing is subject to deterioration and can be replaced with a new 2X4 or 2X6 as needed (attach with deck screws).

Prefinish any replaced parts with stain or paint to match the rest of the deck.

Replacing an entire railing and supports will update your deck and can be done with a different material, including low-maintenance
PVC or metal.


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