5 common deck problems and solutions
When the weather is warm and pleasant, your deck may be one of the most popular areas of the home. But because decks are exposed to the elements, they can quickly deteriorate and wear down. Fortunately, many common deck problems have simple solutions that can keep your deck looking great so you can enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.
Many homeowners have their newly installed deck sealed once and then neglect to ever do it again, leaving the wood exposed to the elements, eventually causing the wood to show significant signs of water damage. Even the best sealant may wear off with time, and need to be reapplied every few years. To test your deck, sprinkle some water onto it and if the water stops beading and instead just seeps into the wood, you'll know that it's time to reseal the deck. Remember to clean the deck thoroughly before sealing it, and replace any pieces of damaged wood.
Wood will lose its color over time, slowly turning gray as it ages and accumulates damage and debris. This is a visual problem, but one that you'll want to fix if you like the look of your deck. Most wood cleaners will restore some of the original color by removing the grime that's causing the discoloration. Additionally, you could use a wood brightener, which may also restore some color. As always, be sure to seal the deck after cleaning or brightening the wood to ensure that it continues to look refreshed until the next treatment.
Rot, where the wood is literally falling apart, is the worst-case scenario for an unprotected deck. Not only is rot unsightly, but it can also undermine the integrity of the deck itself. If the deck has been sealed but still shows signs of rot, it's important to check the area after the next storm to see where the water is coming from. Often, you may discover a gutter issue or a problem with a fixture that is funneling water onto a particular area of the deck. Rot is also a big problem around handrails or stairs, where it's more difficult to effectively seal the area.
Fixing rot calls for repair, inspection and resealing. Repair any affected boards while inspecting the posts and beams to ensure the deck remains stable. Then, once only good wood is left, completely seal the deck so the rot doesn't return.
Certain types of wood will shrink over time as it dries out, which may create gaps in your deck. Unfortunately, the only way to correct this problem is to remove the boards and replace them.
Decks are often installed by inexperienced homeowners, which can affect their structural integrity. If your deck has any "give" to it when you walk on it, there's a good chance your deck needs structural repair. Check the structure underneath the deck to ensure that the ledger boards, joist hangers and post connections are all complete and secure. If you're unsure about any connections or support, call a professional deck installer to assess the situation and make repair work if needed. The peace of mind you'll get will be more than worth the expense.