WHAT TO LOOK FOR AND WHAT TO DO
Its time to consider a little wood deck repair if you ever get a splinter when you walk barefoot on it, stub your toe on a nailhead or the railing moves when you lean against it. If you frequently use it and you’re often on your wood deck, repair probably isn’t on your mind. But, if you haven’t inspected it lately, it may need some work you don’t know about.
Don’t let the idea of attempting a wood deck repair project intimidate you, though.
Most homeowners have more than enough skill to repair nearly anything that typically becomes a problem.
The key is to inspect the wood closely and fix those problems before they become catastrophes.
If you do find a problem that seems catastrophic, remember; its only wood.
FINDING THE PROBLEM
The first step to any wood deck repair project is to look at every section and piece of wood for damage of any kind. Inspect the surface of your deck and underneath it as well. If you find damage—dry rot, mildew, mold or any sort of water damage—check to see if the source of that problem is obvious.
Look for drainage problems or places where water might be trapped. Check the posts, beams and the underside of the flooring. Before you start to replace anything, make sure you’ve addressed the origin of the issue.
Wood close to or touching the ground is often the problem. The majority of the wood deck repair jobs are here. Wood that starts to rot sends out an invitation to carpenter ants and other insects that lunch is served!
The two things these bugs need to survive is moisture and food. Rot provides both. Even in daylight, use a flashlight to inspect anything that looks suspect. Hose off problem areas and look again.
Dead leaves blown against the house or railings is a disaster waiting to happen! If there’s an area in which this occurs, see if you can change something or resolve yourself to spraying off that part of the deck more often than usual. Moisture retention is by far the most prevalent culprit.
Besides a flashlight, a screwdriver will help identify problem areas. Some spots look bad, but are actually still okay. If the screwdriver punches into the wood—even a quarter of an inch—with medium pressure, that area needs some attention..
Loose railings and stair rails are generally the result of poor construction. Look to see if the railings are screwed or bolted to your deck. Problems like these can only get worse, and if they are unsafe, you may be beyond wood deck repair.
You may need to replace them. First, see if you can add longer screws or additional fasteners and tighten what’s there. You, as the present homeowner, are liable for injuries regardless of who originally built the deck. Walk around shaking and pushing on the railings. If they move more than an inch, maybe you’ve found your wood deck repair project!
Also, look closely at the surface of the flooring as you shuffle your feet across it. Popped nails—those whose heads are raised above the surface of the wood—can do real injury to soft feet bottoms! Personally, I prefer deck screws, as they are much less likely to come up, but lots of decks have been built with nails. Get on your knees and look across the surface. Popped nails cannot hide.
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FIXING THE PROBLEM
Popped nails are the easiest repair, so let’s start there. You should already own a pair of knee pads and if you don’t, go buy a pair. The thicker and harder, the better.
Crawl around, as part of your “wood deck repair problem search project” and hammer all those pesky nails back in their place as you find them!. Don’t let any get away, either. Its a boring job, but try and stay focused, as every miss with your hammer will leave a mark.
Too many of those and your know-it-all neighbor might embarrass you when he comes over to see what you’re doing! A standard claw hammer with a smooth (not waffle) head, is best for this project.
Dry rot is a fungus that spreads like cancer. If you find dry rot, you mustreplace the infected wood because, like cancer, the infection goes beyond what’s visible to the eye and will not stop on its own. Usually that’s an easy job, though, as decks are made of many, many separate parts.
Even replacing one post, cemented in the ground, at a time isn’t bad. Be sure to dispose of the infected lumber in a way so as not to have it touch other wood. If you have a fire pit, throw a dry rot burning party and toast the wood! Deck repair can have its fun moments.
Weather damaged boards may be able to be fixed, especially if they are just twisted or bowed slightly. Make a “tool” out of a 3 foot 2×4 by notching it to accept a deck board, allowing you to muscle it back straight. Using 5″ deck screws (regardless if your deck was constructed with nails or screws) re-attach the bent wood. A little overkill might be appropriate here, as a few more screw heads won’t be nearly as unsightly as a warped board.
After all the wood deck repair and replacements are done, its a good time to clean and refinish! A fresh, new looking deck will be just the thing to spark a party! Check out the pages on Wood Deck Paint and Wood Deck Stains, then fire up the barbie and bring out the cooler!.
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