Have you looked at your deck lately and wondered, “when should decking be replaced”?

“When should decking be replaced?” is a common question among homeowners, but the answer is relatively simple. Luckily, most wood decks last anywhere from 15-25 years depending on the type and quality of the wood when it was installed, how well it was installed, how well you or previous homeowners have maintained the deck, as well as the weather conditions in the area.

I know, this sounds like a lot of factors, but they are all incredibly important. Let’s break this all down, taking each issue independently to help you answer the question “when should decking be replaced?” when it comes to your own deck.

First, let’s start with the clues. The reason why you might wonder whether or not your deck needs to be replaced in the first place. Or, whether you can just repair it instead.

Clues that your deck might need to be repaired or replaced:

It might seem obvious in some cases, such as if you see sagging, or if you have broken boards. But there are other times when it is far less obvious, and you might even want to call in a professional to make a final determination.

One of those cases might be, if your deck boards have cracking and splitting, but the rest of the deck seems all right. Cracking doesn’t necessarily mean the deck is in bad shape. Deck boards can crack for a number of reasons. Mainly, from drying after exposure to water. In many cases, you can sand down the wood and give the deck a good coat of stain and seal, and that could prolong the life of the deck by several more years.

There are other cases though, take this one about potted plants and the surrounding wood becoming soft. The surrounding wood has become soft due to overflowing water from the pots- you might need to replace just those boards.

While those may be easy fixes, there are other problems you will want to check for:

  • Sagging- of either the foundation or the surface boards. This might likely be due to termites. The whole deck will need to be replaced.
  • Soft, mushy wood- this can happen if the wood has experienced a lot of exposure to water, and hasn’t been able to fully dry.
  • Cracking or splitting- as mentioned, in most cases you can extend the life of the deck with stain and sealant. Cracking doesn’t necessarily warrant worry for the decks integrity. But what you want to be aware of, is that if the deck isn’t sealed when there are cracks. This makes it more susceptible to water. The water can seep into the cracks and soften the wood, and also make it more likely that termites could settle in.
  • Termites- they create channels in the wood, allowing water to seep in, rotting the wood from the inside. Termite damage is pretty noticable in a lot of cases, but you can get a professional inspection if you are unsure.

This isn’t to say that these issues happen a lot. In fact, most homeowners experience no issues until the deck edges closer to the end of it’s lifespan.

when should decking be replaced

How to inspect your deck:

This is rather simple. Grab a screwdriver and probe the posts that come in contact with the ground. Also check the railings and the surface of the deck. If your screwdriver is able to easily enter the wood without you really trying to puncture it, then there is likely damage. The wood is too soft, either from termites or water damage. From then, it is best to contact a professional to do an inspection of the deck.

They will be able to tell you exactly how much of the deck needs to be replaced, if not all of it, and what your options are. Some can even help you design a new one.

when should decking be replaced

Maintaining the deck against weather and time:

Of course, the type of wood and the quality of that would is important when installing a deck. Exotic woods tend to be harder and more durable, with a longer life span. But softwoods like cedar are still a great and affordable choice that can give you a great outdoor space for the next twenty years. Decks tend to last longer when they are installed by professionals. This is because decks have to be designed to avoid water settling and pooling. They also tend to create a way for water to run off the deck, to help it last longer. Their input is helpful in creating a long lasting deck.

Maintaining your deck is really the best way for you to get real, long life out of it. Annual staining and sealing will help protect it from water and insects, while also helping the deck retain its color and integrity.

We’d recommend coating your deck in a sealant before winter hits to help protect it from the snow and heavy rains of spring before summer hits.

We hope this was helpful in answering “when should decking be replaced”. If you’d like to connect with one of our professionals here at Rocky Mountain Forest Products, feel free to give us a call at: 866-534-2108. Or, reach us through our contact page.