This article will save you some time, sweat, aggravation, material, and money if you are rebuilding an existing deck. Your old deck, the same one that has given you many happy moments in the chaise lounge sipping mint juleps, has seen better days. So, on a Saturday morning, you wake up, step out on the deck with a cup of coffee, and have a great idea - Today’s the day to give this deck a much-needed facelift! In seventeen seconds, you have your measuring tape and you’re ready to attack your 16x20-foot deck. Replace a couple of rotted floor joists and by dinnertime, you will be enjoying your new deck!
Here is a list of lessons I have learned doing deck repairs and rebuilds:
Location, Location, Location
If the deck is the main thoroughfare in and out of the house, figure out plan B for getting in and out of your house while the deck is unusable. Make sure you can sanely use this plan B – with groceries, the dog, bikes, etc. – for at least two weeks. If this DIY project will be performed only on weekends, then make sure plan B will work for at least a month.
When is the best four-week window to take the Sawzall and crowbar to the deck? If there’s an important party or get-together planned within the following month, plan the rebuild for a later date.
Check the Weather
The accuracy of weather reports being what they are, at least research them to give yourself the best opportunity for clear, moderate weather. You don't want it to be too hot - deck lumber is heavy and nothing saps strength quicker than the sun. Just as importantly, working with rain-soaked lumber is obviously tougher than working with dry.
Make sure you have the money to complete your plan and design. With a rebuild, the difficulty is not knowing how much of the original deck needs to be replaced. This is because there may be rot or other damage that cannot be seen until removing existing treads, faceplates, and stairs. You will already be into the project before you really know how much the rebuild will cost.
Get a Partner
Whether you’re replacing floor joists, stair stringers, deck posts, ledgers, or floor treads, you will probably be wielding 12, 16, or even 20-foot lengths of lumber. Most deck rebuilds are not one-person DIY projects. Line up the necessary help ahead of time. Make sure you have plenty of water on hand for hydration.
Plan and Prepare
Deck rebuilds are always more extensive than initially expected, but it doesn't mean you should avoid the project. Plan the structural design to accommodate the desired tread materials be it composite or wood, pine, pressure-treated, or cedar. Different materials may require different on-center support spans, which may change the size and quantity of lumber for joists or beams. In addition, some amount of material optimization is recommended because one free delivery from the lumber yard saves time, money, and aggravation - as compared to an unplanned lumber yard run at 3 pm on Sunday for 16-foot lumber with a mini-van.
Keep the Look Coherent
Mixing different finished materials is not recommended. If the treads are composite, make all the horizontal surfaces such as railing tops, and stair treads, composite for a better look.
The great benefit of a rebuild project in lieu of starting new is that your existing deck becomes the blueprint for the rebuild. Each old member is the exact template for the new member - dimensions, length, drilled holes, notches, etc. In a shorter time with less money and greater ease, you will have a solid deck you can enjoy for years to come.
For more information on deck construction and maintenance, visit our Decks Page.