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When assessing your aging wooden deck, it can be hard to tell if you can extend its life or need to replace it. A new deck is costly, but you don’t want to be constantly sinking money into increasingly expensive repairs. These repair experts offer their advice when deciding to paint and reseal your deck versus replacing it.

Owen Mosser

Owen Mosser

Owen Mosser, Home Repair, Garden, and Automobile Editor at The Golden.

Factors To Consider When Resealing, Repainting, And Replacing Decks

Wood decking adds aesthetic appeal to your home, boosts your home’s value, and provides you a place to host parties and gatherings. But when is the right time to replace an old wooden deck, and when should you opt for repairing it instead? Here are important things you need to know.

Wooden decks of cedar, pine, or redwood typically last 10 to 20 years. However, how they were built and treated can also affect their lifespan and quality. Obvious damages in your wooden deck like cracks, broken boards, holes from termites, rotting, rusted fixtures and fitting, loose railings, molds, and mildew are common tell-tale signs you have to replace your wooden deck.

If you’re unsure whether or not the damage is treatable, here’s how to tell: Unless the rot, mold, or mildew is widespread throughout your deck, you can opt for replacing the damaged wooden panels instead. Repair your deck if its railings shake or the floorboards are loose, but the foundation is still intact.

If you must restore an old wooden deck, the first thing you have to do is to make repairs. Check for loose railings, rusted nails, or hardware. Next, you need to clean its surface. Using a regular deck cleaner can suffice if you’re cleaning an old but otherwise unsullied board. For tough stains, it’s better to use a specialized cleaning solution and a pressure washer to clean your deck. Then, it’s time to add a protective finish. For older decks, I suggest using a semi transparent stain. For new ones, use clear finishes and transparent stains.

Of course, all these are subject to further inspection. But if your repair cost is almost the same as the replacement cost, it’s best to overhaul your deck completely.

Re-paint When the Deck is Stable

You should restain and repaint a deck unless the deck is broken and can’t be repaired. If the deck is rotten, has large cracks that can’t be fixed, or the support system is damaged, then you should replace the deck.

If the deck isn’t broken or damaged and the support system of the deck is stable enough, then you should just repaint it. Here’s how to repaint a deck:

First, clean the deck using a pressure washer. Make sure to get rid of the previous paint using a pressure washer. If the pressure washer doesn’t remove all the paint, you can use a paint stripper.

Once you remove the paint, you have to prep the surface. Fill any hole you find with a wood filler, and wait for the wood filler to dry. Once the wood filler dries, use a random orbital sander to sand down the whole deck. Then, prime and repaint the deck using oil-based paint. Once the paint dries, seal the deck.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Tony Adams, Certified Painter and Co-Chief Editor for DIYgeeks.com.
Andre Kazimierski

Andre Kazimierski

Andre Kazimierski, CEO, Improovy.

Replace if Repair Costs are Comparable

If the cost of repairs is getting close to the cost of replacing the entire deck, it’s often better just to replace it. Even if your decking materials are structurally sound but old, you’ll likely be replacing them within a few years anyway. Monitor exactly how much you’re going to have to replace, its cost, and the comparative cost of simply resealing or fixing those parts.

Replace When It’s Rotting or Breaking

It depends on the state of the deck. Paint can be quite effective at filling and covering cracks and imperfections and is a much cheaper and time-efficient option. If you think the damage is minimal and possible to fix with paint, then go for it. If your deck is experiencing any rot or panel breakage, it is best to replace it. More damage is bound to follow, which will require regular maintenance.

Volodymyr Barabakh

Volodymyr Barabakh

Volodymyr Barabakh is the Co-Founder and Project Director of building contractor Structural Beam.

Diarmuid Hennessey

Diarmuid Hennessey, Contracting Expert at Homecheck.

Repair if the Foundation is Intact

In some cases, you can restore your deck and bring it back to life, but often it can be too far gone and need a total replacement.

One of the most common issues with a wooden deck is rotting panels. Over time the wood can begin to succumb to mold and rotting, particularly in humid, moist areas. The good news is the rotted boards can be replaced. But if the rot has spread to the foundations of the deck itself, you’re in trouble. If your base has rot lingering, the whole piece will need to be replaced. Similarly, if your boards are cracked or loose, they can also be replaced, giving your deck some new life.

However, if the beams and joists of your deck are weak, softening, or rotting, you’ll need to replace the deck. You can test this by trying to make a dent in the joists with a screwdriver. If you’re successful, it’s time for a change.

Also, pay close attention to your deck posts. Over time these can erode due to extended exposure to harsh weather conditions, which can seriously affect the deck’s structural integrity. If the erosion is visible to the naked eye, time to replace it.

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