Whether you just moved into a new home, or you're trying to spruce up the house you’ve lived in for years, making some simple repairs to the deck can give a big boost to your outdoor living space. Aesthetic issues aside, safety is another reason to make sure our wooden porch structures are free from damage or excessive wear. Let’s look at a few common problems with decks and some easy solutions.
1. Sinking Posts
Does your deck run drastically downhill? It could be the posts that bear the weight of your deck have begun to sink. If the posts were not placed deep enough into the ground and you live in a Northern climate, then the yearly action of freezing and thawing pushes your posts deeper into the ground. As the posts sink, so goes the deck.
There are several ways to combat this problem. Ideally, you won’t have to remove any floorboards from the deck to perform the repairs, but if there is not enough clearance under the deck for you to work, you may have to remove a portion of the floor so you can access the bad post.
Place a car jack under the joist closest to the bad post. Slowly raise the deck to the point where it is level again. It is important you do not do this too quickly. Speed may cause the wood to separate or joist hangers to pull apart. Just make incremental lifts, pausing to listen between each one. If something is breaking or pulling apart you will hear it.
Once the deck is level, slide a length of pipe into the hole under the post. The dirt should be loose around the post from where you just lifted it up. Push the pipe down until you meet resistance. Use the pipe like a funnel and slowly pour pea gravel into the bottom of the hole. Work the pipe up and down gently to make sure that as much gravel as possible works into the hole. Repeat this process until the deck maintains the correct level, even when you release the jack.
2. Broken Joists
Over time, the joists that support the floor of your deck can become weak, split or break. Replacing these in a timely manner is vital to maintaining the security and safety of the deck.
Begin by removing every floorboard that touches the affected joist. This may be just a few, or it could be the entire floor. It depends on the size and pattern of your deck. Ideally, the floor was screwed down and you can remove these boards with a cordless driver. If, however, the floor was installed with nails, you must use a hammer and a pry-bar to remove the floorboards. If you plan to re-use the boards, take care not to split them when pulling them up.
Once you have access to the joists, remove the nails that secure the broken joist into its hanger. The joist should just slide right out. Carefully measure the correct length for the new one and slide it into place. If it looks like the hanger is damaged or excessively rusty, then go ahead and replace it as well. After you have secured the joist into the existing or new joist hanger, re-place the floorboards back in their original pattern. If you have to remove a large portion of the floor to access the joist, you may find it helpful to label the floorboards so you have an easier time figuring out where each one goes when the time comes to put them back on.
3. Broken Floor Boards
Broken or splintering floorboards are probably the most common type of deck maintenance required. Since the floor is consistently exposed to the elements, the surface is most likely to suffer the effects of harsh wind, rain, snow, ice and the pounding sun.
Replacing the floorboards is relatively easy. It is just a matter of removing the ones you want to replace and installing the new ones. You can even use the old boards as a template when you are cutting the new ones to the correct size. This assures an accurate fit and helps to maintain the original quality and professional appearance of your deck.
4. Peeling Paint
Maybe you, or someone else, decided somewhere along the way to paint your deck. If this is the case, then you are probably regretting it. In spite of the many advancements that have been made in the paint industry, they still have yet to come up with a good exterior paint that will last on a horizontal surface that continuously gets wet. That means that there really isn’t a paint that will stick well, or long term, to your deck.
The best way to deal with peeling paint on your deck surface is to completely remove and to use a stain. Remember, the paint sits on top of the wood and can peel. Stain actually soaks into the wood and changes the color of the wood itself. It will not peel. Before you can begin staining, use a pressure washer to remove all of the blistering, peelings, and unsightly paint. Then, use a sander to remove any stubborn patches that decided to stick. You want a clean, paint-free surface when you begin applying the stain.