American Homeowners Association Membership  
American Homeowners Association



Resurrecting a Dead Deck

Don't tear down that deck, rehabilitate it with some good old fashioned elbow grease.

There comes a time when a neglected deck finally gets your attention. After stubbing a toe on a warped board, or catching a splinter, or just recoiling from all the ugly stains, you're ready to do something about it. Don't immediately jump to the conclusion that replacement is necessary. Your deck might be too far gone but chances are you can rehabilitate your deck yourself and avoid the major expense of replacement. But be prepared to spend some time and apply some elbow grease to bring it back to life.

Okay, so you didn't perform annual maintenance and that's why your deck got so weathered, battered and worn. But don't beat yourself up for letting the elements beat up your deck. With some repairs, cleaning and staining, you can restore some of its lost luster. And with periodic cleaning and maintenance, you can keep it looking good. That's a relief when you consider the cost of replacing it. Now, here's how you can save even more money by doing this project yourself, i.e., about one dollar per foot or $700 for hiring a professional to rejuvenate a 700 sq. foot deck. Your cost should be only one-third as much.

Be prepared to set aside two weekends. It'll spread the labor out and allow time for the wood to dry before staining. Start with a close inspection, especially scrutinizing the places where the deck touches the ground--those potential problem areas at the posts, stair stringers and joists. Poke and prod with a screwdriver. If you find a lot of rotted wood, you're in for major structural repairs. Look for the places where the deck connects to the house and check for missing, loose or rusted screws and bolts, and replace or retighten them. Black stains on the exterior or interior might mean you have a leak that should be cured by repairing or installing flashing and spacers that keep moisture out. Finally, check for minor things such as loose boards, splinters or loose railings and refasten or replace as needed.

Next, you're ready for a spring cleaning. A few pointers before you get started: wear protective goggles and gloves, and treat the cleaning solution with respect. If spray gets on you or your plants, you'll notice the deleterious effects. Depending on how caustic the product is, seepage or overspray into the yard could damage or kill your plants, so you may want to cover them with plastic sheeting. Save time by using an applicator and garden hose. Then get down and scrub with a stiff bristle brush while still wet. Rinse and allow it to dry thoroughly before staining.

Staining requires more precision than cleaning but done right, a fresh, even coat of stain can hide faded, spotted or stained wood. Here again, a sprayer may save time, especially on a larger deck. Working parallel with the boards, start from the inside working out. Do just a few boards at a time to avoid lap marks, and lap up puddles with a brush. Don't be stingy, lay on a healthy coat of stain then follow up with a brush or roller. Apply finishing touches around the posts and end grains of the boards. Be prepared to use more stain than the instructions indicate.

That's it, you're back on the road to recovery. Now keep your deck healthy with annual cleaning and a new coat of stain every other year.

Sources used to create this article include Joe Hurst-Wasjszcuk and Today's Homeowner magazine.