Tearing Down an Old Wood Deck Floor
If your deck is located in a heavily-shaded area, consider trimming tree branches. This will provide more sun exposure and less moisture from overhanging branches. Planning is the key to any project of this magnitude and that’s why it’s a good idea to have a dumpster delivered ahead of time. Keeping your yard free of nail-infested boards is safer for everyone, especially small children and pets. If you are using alternative materials, like composite decking or vinyl, always follow the manufacturer’s recommended installation procedures for the product you buy and check with your local municipality for building codes.
Start your project with a good pressure cleaning of your deck. By removing the dirt and grime, you are better able to assess necessary repairs. Mix one quart household bleach, 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent and three quarts warm water to remove dirt, mildew and weathered wood. Use a stiff bristle brush to clean the deck, rinsing with the power washer. Adjust the power washer to fan out so that it doesn’t penetrate the wood. Go along the grain and into the grooves. To remove tree sap, you can use white wall tire cleaner and a scraper. Apply the cleaner to the area, letting it set for a few minutes before scraping the sap away. Wood needs twenty-four hours to dry. Once dry, you can identify decking boards that are spongy or completely rotted out.
Extract the screws or nails from the boards that need replacing. Use a crow bar or flat bar to pry stubborn boards loose. In some cases, boards can be re-used by flipping them over. If you are replacing all the decking boards, start at the outside board and work your way toward the house. Otherwise, you’ll run out of places to stand!
With the rotted boards removed, you may notice rot on the joist below. Chisel away the rot and spray sealer on the support joist. Allow this to dry before applying a second coat. For further structural support, run sister joists alongside the old ones.
When you are ready to place the new boards, consider vinyl decking for its easy installation and low maintenance. But if you are using wood, make sure you buy decking boards of matching lumber long enough to span the width of your deck. You can give your new decking boards a weathered look by scrubbing them with a mixture of one gallon water and one cup baking soda. When you have achieved the look you want, rinse with water and dry before sealing and staining to match the others. Cut the new decking boards to size and pre-drill the ends of the boards to prevent the wood from splitting. Install boards 1/8 inch apart to provide enough space for drainage. The last thing you want is water aging your deck prematurely. Because boards naturally “cup” as they age, it is best to place boards bark side down, preventing the cupped surface from holding standing water. Re-install your old boards with galvanized screws in the old nail holes.
Whether using wood, composite or vinyl decking, you’ll appreciate your deck much more knowing you’ve maintained it properly. Let the hammering begin.