The dos and don’ts of rebuilding your deck

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Updated: May 7, 2019

Wooden deck at Lake cabin with Adirondack chairs Photo by AForlenza/Shutterstock

If your railing is jiggling and you’re starting to get splinters when you barbecue in bare feet, it’s probably time for a new deck. But before you start tearing it down, be sure to do a good inspection—an old deck with a sound structure doesn’t need to be completely disassembled. In fact, it may be as simple as removing worn-down railings and deck boards, which can easily be replaced with newer, more low-maintenance materials, and could save you a ton of money. Whether you’re sticking with some old framing or starting from scratch, consider these dos and don’ts for rebuilding your deck before your next trip to TIMBER MART.

Don’t rush it

The great thing about deck work is that you can slowly pick away at it without it disrupting your day-to-day the way a kitchen or bathroom reno might. And though you may not want to drag the work out over an entire season, it’s important to be patient and remember that even if you’re not redoing the structural work, it can still take several weekends to accomplish. Exactly how long it will take depends on whether or not your deck is a good candidate for remodelling. To determine how much work needs to be done, you’ll have to assess the structural damage, paying special attention to any part of the deck that’s in direct contact with the ground, including posts, stair stringers, or ground-level joists.

Do check whether the footings are sound

If your deck looks a little warped, particularly in the winter, your footings are likely too shallow and have started to heave. If that’s the case, you’ll have to replace them. Thankfully, that doesn’t always mean digging up the old ones, which is a labour-intensive job. Instead, you can often just dig and pour new ones directly next to the old ones—no stress, no mess.

Don’t forget to assess wood condition

If your deck posts and other parts of the frame are made from treated lumber, they should last for decades. If you know the deck’s been framed with redwood or cedar—or if you try screwing into the wood and it’s soft, indicating rot—you’re better off to start from scratch. When assessing the wood condition, pay particular attention to the posts, which typically rot closer to where they contact the ground. If they’re buried, you may have to dig down a little to find out what condition they’re in. If your footings are solid but the posts are rotted, you can simply replace the posts by raising the deck with a car jack.

Do consider new materials

Before replacing the deck boards, consider whether you want to opt for something other than typical lumber. Composite decking, for example, has a ton of benefits, some of which you’ve probably never considered. It’s super durable—resistant to fading, scratches, mould, cracking, or warping—and it’s safe and comfortable for families and pets. Plus, with materials like composite decking, an occasional soap-and-water cleaning is all you need to maintain the boards for decades—there’s no need to worry about sanding, staining, or painting.

Don’t miss the opportunity to redesign

If the structure of your old deck is in good shape and you want to keep things simple, then it might be best to stick to what you’ve got. But if you’re willing to put in a little more time, this is the perfect opportunity for a redesign. Looking for a little inspiration? There are simple-to-use computer programs that will provide you with expertly designed examples that can easily be customized. Use them as a starting point, or you can simply browse through them for inspiration.

Do line up all the necessary tools

There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a project before realizing you don’t have all the tools you need. For something like this, make sure you’re equipped with all of your necessary tools, including a level, circular saw, mitre saw, screw gun, and carpenter’s square. But that’s just for building the deck. For any demo work, you’ll also likely need a sledgehammer and a pry bar.

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