The Professional Choice

A companion overview to the popular "Ask Mr. Handyman" radio program airing on Christian Talk Radio, KCRO 660AM Saturdays @ 9:30AM.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Decks Cost Thou$and$ to Replace....Extend the life with these tips.

It often only takes a year or two for a fresh-looking deck to become dreary. Where you once enjoyed relaxing and chatting with friends, you now dread to tread. Often, however, what looks like severe damage can be fixed with a little elbow grease and the right products.

Give your tired-looking deck a facelift sooner rather than later. Wood that is left unprotected will soak up moisture, leading to serious damage. Because decks suffer abuse from the harsh sun, foot traffic, rain, snow, and ice—you may need to treat your deck on a regular basis, perhaps even once a year.

1. Inspect the deck. Just about any wood can rot if it stays wet for long periods. Take the time to examine all the wood carefully to see if any boards are rotten. Unfortunately, most wood rot occurs in places that are hard to see—under the decking boards, at the ledger (the board that is attached to the house), on the underside of stair treads, and so on. If possible, crawl underneath the deck to make your inspection.

2. Make repairs. Any sign of rot calls for the replacement of boards. Hire a carpenter, or use a flat pry bar to carefully remove rotten boards. Replace them with like materials If nails or boards are popping up or coming loose, do not simply pound the old nails down again; remove them and replace them with longer nails, special decking nails, or decking screws.

3. Ensure against future rot. If any part of your deck stays wet for a day or more after a rainfall, take steps to see that it can dry out. You'll probably need to use a leaf blower or a broom to sweep away leaves and dirt from between boards, or where the deck meets the house. Perhaps a bush or tree limb needs to be trimmed back, or a gutter downspout moved to direct water away from the deck.Debris between deck boards looks bad and soaks up water, promoting rot. Use a putty knife or-a plastic wallpaper knife to clear out the debris.

4. Clean a discolored deck. If the deck has taken on a dull gray color, the problem looks much worse than it is. Chances are it's covered with a thin film of mildew and needs only a cleaning. Dark stains may be due to mildew; cleaning with soap and water or bleach may clear up the problem. Ensure that your deck can dry out so the mildew does not return.

To clean a deck, purchase a commercial deck wash/cleaner or TSP heavy-duty cleanser and follow directions—usually, this means a lot of scrubbing, rinsing and elbow grease.
For a quick cleaning, rent a pressure-washer and equip it with a fan tip. Work carefully so you do not make indentations in the wood. Hire a professional if you do not have experience using a pressure washer, you could damage the surface of the wood.

5. Seal and finish. After cleaning a deck, allow it to dry thoroughly before sealing it but don't wait too long--don't give it time to get dirty again. To determine if it needs to be sealed, sprinkle a few drops of water on the wood. If it doesn't bead up and instead soaks right in, the deck needs to be sealed.