Your deck is an important part of your home as a whole, creating continuity between outdoors and in. Here’s how to check its health, and decide on replacement.
Even if your deck has been waterproofed and built soundly, it still sits outside through rain, snow, sleet, and other elements that wear it out. So how do you know when it’s time to replace your deck, or when you ought to repair a few elements? By inspecting key parts of your deck, you’ll know if it’s safe for a little while longer or if you should consider repairing or replacing it all together.
1. Account for the deck material you’ve chosen
The material of your deck will have a bearing on what else you will be looking for when it comes to assessing its condition. Real wood decks will show signs of wear in a different way than a composite deck for instance. If you’ve got real wood deck, insect damage and warping are common in surfaces that are reaching the end of their use. For composite and vinyl decks, fading can be an issue.
Knowing the kind of material you’ve got and to what kind of damage its prone can help you decide whether a quick repair or replacement of individual boards is called for, or if you need to think about a bigger replacement project.
2. Look at the posts
Water can gather at the base of the posts holding up your deck, so you want to check there first. If you dig out any dirt and find rot or water damage, you’ll need to replace those posts.
It’s possible to replace one or two posts without tearing down the entire deck, but if the problem shows in every post or if you see rot in other areas, it may be time to start over with a new deck. Since posts are a supporting structure, the issue of safety can often come into play. Checking for damage is a good way to ensure it.
3. Look at the joists
The joists, which also hold the deck up, are equally vital in making sure your deck is stable. If these show rot, that’s a bad sign. If the wood is soft, or if you’re able to push a screwdriver into the wood, that’s an equally bad sign.
Joists are hard to replace without tearing up a portion of your deck, so if they show damage, it’s probably time to replace and rebuild. Also, damaged joists can be the result of more than just age. Pests and water damage may be indicative of other issues to take care of before replacing the joists and investing in new decking. When in doubt, call a professional.
4. Lean on the railing
Before you do any actual leaning, check to make sure the railing hasn’t rotted or suffered extensive water damage. Because railings are places where people tend to congregate or lean, having railings that are unsteady or in need of repair can be dangerous.
Thankfully, if your railings are the only place you’re seeing decay, you can replace them without replacing the whole deck. This is an element that you can monitor more frequently too.
5. Consider the age of your deck
A deck older than six years will probably need a professional inspection, even if you don’t see anything wrong with it yourself. As a rule, the age of your deck relative to the kind of exposure it has to the elements, will have the most affect on its health.
As your deck ages, particularly in areas when you’ve got extreme temperatures from season to season, shortening the period between the times you call for a professional deck inspection is a good idea too. Just like more trips to the doctor for check ups is important for people as they age, it’s true for your deck, too.
6. Check the ledger board
The ledger board is the bit of the deck that attaches to the rest of your home. Another way to tell if your deck is in need of replacing is if the ledger board is pulling away from the house. This can cause collapses in heavy snow or rough thunderstorms.
Catch problems early, and get the help of pros
Some problems can be isolated and fixed, while others require starting over from the ground up. The important thing is to catch problems as soon as possible so that you, your family, and your guests aren’t in danger while enjoying your outdoor space.
If you’re ever uncertain while inspecting your deck, consult a professional for guidance. By nature, the pros can see things that you can’t. Investing in regular inspections can actually help you to save money and misery later down the line.