How to Spot Common Deck Repair Problems

Decks take a beating from the sun, rain and snow. As a result, it’s common for wood to deteriorate over time. Regular inspections can help spot problems so they can be repaired quickly before they become a safety hazard.

If your deck feels unstable, consider having it reinforced to ensure long-term stability. A deck repair professional can assess your structure and determine if it needs to be replaced. Contact Deck Repair Charleston SC now!

If your splitboard has a cracked or split seam or crease you can probably get it to hold together if you do some emergency rigging. You will need to remove all of the dried splinters, debris and grit from the exterior of the board, clean it thoroughly and repair any holes or perforations with wood glue. A good quality wood glue will work, but be sure it is rated for outdoor use (or marine/waterproof) and has been tested to ensure that it won’t degrade your board when exposed to sun and water over time.

A plastic syringe with a fine tip can be used to inject the glue directly into the crack or crevice. Alternatively, you can force the glue in with a putty knife that has been wrapped with masking tape. The goal is to fill the entire crack, but you will have to work it into a tight spot in the middle of the split to get the best results.

You can also use a small block of wood to push up on the crack once or twice to force it closed and spread the glue around more evenly. Once you have worked the glue into the crack, hammer in rust-resistant nails along the bottom edge of the board to hold it firmly closed. You may need to sand the top and bottom of the nail head to make it smooth afterward.

After the crack is repaired, you can replace any rotten boards, if necessary. If a board is completely broken apart it may be beyond repair, in which case you will need to purchase and install a new one.

A splitboard comes with a tool that you can use to trim the skins to size for a perfect fit, but if yours has a snag or tear in it and you don’t have that tool handy you can use a fresh razor blade instead. Just be careful not to cut into any of the strands of the core. If you do, it will be hard to get that part of the board to bend or flex and may not stay intact.

Rotted Wood

Wood rot can be difficult to spot, but it’s essential to pay attention. If left unattended, rotting wood will continue to devour and destabilize the deck structure. If the rot is extensive, it may require replacement.

Dry rot is the result of a particular species of fungus that thrives in damp conditions, consuming and dissolving wood. Spores from this fungus can travel on the air, landing on your deck and infesting its structural members. You can identify dry rot by its white or gray appearance, or the mushroom-like growths it produces.

The best way to avoid rot is to regularly inspect your deck and eliminate excess moisture. Fungicides can kill rot spores to prevent further decay, and a good home inspector or professional builder can recommend additional steps. Make sure gutters are clean and water is effectively drained from the wood, and caulk or sealant is in good condition around areas prone to moisture like windows and doors.

If you discover rot in the ledger board, which connects the deck to your home, or in the joists underneath the deck, it’s time to call in a professional. A carpentry company can help restore and repair the damaged areas of your deck. If the rot is advanced, it might be necessary to replace the entire board or section of the joists, depending on the strength and stability of your deck.

You can repair rotted wood with epoxy or another type of wood filler. First, remove the soft rotted sections of the wood with a claw hammer. Be careful not to damage unaffected surrounding wood, and always remove as much rotten wood as possible without damaging the structural integrity of the board or joist. After removing the infected wood, clean the remaining rotting area to eliminate dirt and rust. Then, using an epoxy product such as a borate wood preservative or an epoxy consolidant, drill holes into the rotted area and inject the preservative through them.

Allow the rot to dry and harden for 10 minutes, then use a utility knife, chisel, or sandpaper to smooth the shaped block patch of wood filler into place. Glue the block to the rotted area and use a face-frame clamp to hold it in place until dry. Finally, sand the filled or block-patched rotted wood areas and apply two coats of good quality exterior paint to weatherproof the repairs and dress them up.

Loose Boards

Loose boards on your deck are not only unattractive, but they can also pose a tripping hazard for you and your guests. Additionally, loose nails can become projecting and cause gashes on bare feet. The best way to prevent these problems is to check your deck often and deal with any issues promptly. If you do notice a loose board, the first step is to determine whether it needs to be face-nailed or blind-nailed to the floorboards underneath. Once you have determined this, you can hammer the nail or screw into place and use a wood filler to cover up any gaps left by the replacement.

It is very important to not apply too much pressure when removing old or loose nails from your deck. This is because the wood could be weakened and may not hold a nail or screw in the future. Instead, try to loosen the nail with a framing hammer, and if necessary, switch to a crowbar or pry bar.

If the nail is too loose, it will not be able to provide the proper support for your deck. If this happens, the board will shift or buckle. If the board does not move significantly, you can simply re-fasten it using screws, which are more resistant to loosening than nails. If you decide to use nails, choose 16-penny galvanized steel box nails.

Another common issue with decks is loose tongue-and-groove boards. This problem is caused by shrinkage and expansion as the wood goes through its seasonal cycle. In some cases, a plank will expand during periods of high humidity and compress its neighbors. The problem is compounded because the gaps don’t fully close when dry air returns.

You can repair this issue by nailing the boards to the supporting joists. If the gap is too large, use a jigsaw to cut out the loose piece of board. Then, sand the edges of the board and re-nail it to the floorboard. To avoid causing additional damage to the board, you can also use a flexible marine caulk that cures to rubber. This will help to seal the gap and keep water and insects out of your home.

Pest Damage

If you’re concerned about termite damage to your deck, you’ll need to have a professional pest control company treat the problem before proceeding with deck repair. A termite infestation that goes untreated will destroy the wood and weaken your deck’s structure. You can spot signs of a termite infestation by examining your deck for mud-like tunnels, pinhead-sized holes in the wood, weakened areas of the deck, and hollow-sounding wood when tapped.

Carpenter ants can cause similar damage to your deck as termites. These large black ants use their strong mandibles to bore holes in wood for nesting sites, which can weaken the integrity of your deck over time. Symptoms of carpenter ant infestation include round holes about half an inch in diameter, sawdust beneath the holes, and the sound of ant movements near the deck supports.

Loose railings may also be an indication that it’s time to replace them. Loose railings can be unsafe and they can also allow water to rot the untreated lumber underneath them. Fortunately, repairing loose railings is fairly easy; all you need to do is detach the old hardware and fill any voids with epoxy putty before reattaching the railing.

When you’re preparing to do a serious deck repair job, it’s important to examine the joist hangers that hold up your deck’s beams and joists. If you find corroded joist hangers, you’ll need to remove them and replace them with new galvanized metal ones.

Over the years, exposure to sun and rain causes wood to age and lose its original color. To restore its beauty and protect the wood from future damage, apply a coat of stain or paint.

Excess mildew and mold can wreak havoc on your deck, so it’s essential to clean it regularly. Scrub your deck boards with a stiff brush to remove any mildew and dirt buildup. Be sure to scrub the surface of your deck’s railings and any other hardware attached to them. A thorough cleaning can help prevent the growth of mold and mildew, which can discolor the hardware and make your deck look dirty.