Yes, it may be cold outside, and you may not be spending much time in your yard, but you may have noticed that your deck is not in the best of shape. Perhaps, at the end of the summer, it was obvious that repairs or replacement would likely be imminent in order to continue usage and enjoyment for the years to come? Since spring and summer are now on the horizon, this could be considered a great time to perform an initial inspection. Then you can sit down to determine what measures should be undertaken to ensure that you can take full advantage of your outdoor space when the sunshine is plentiful and pleasant.
To Replace or Not to Replace?
The average maintained wood deck has a life expectancy of 10-15 years. The type of wood can impact the lifespan. Exposure to the elements causes depreciation, so no matter the age or material, decks should be inspected thoroughly for wear and tear prior to each season that the deck is in use.
If you are gazing at rotted or chipping wood, it could be possible to salvage the entire deck by considering board replacement, with staining or painting to match the existing planks. A shaky step or loose railing may need intervention as simple as a new nail or screw. While repairs of this nature can certainly be considered an inconvenience, they may not always justify the need for a full deck replacement. On the other hand, if any integral component of the structure is severely compromised, it will likely indicate that a new deck is in your future.
Ask Yourself These Questions
Examining each vital aspect of the deck is recommended to usher you in the right direction. First, what is the age of your existing deck? If it is a newer deck, hopefully everything is still in excellent condition. If it has been around for years, does the deck have obvious flaws that can compromise safety or limit ability to access usable spaces? Give any railings a little jiggle to see if they are loose or unsteady. Are they safe if someone were to lean on them?
Is there noticeable sagging or is it obvious that the deck is no longer level? This is an indication that there may be damage underneath. If water gathered by the base of the posts has caused erosion around or has rotted only one or two posts, it is possible to replace without tearing down the entire framework. However, widespread rot or damage to posts can compromise the entire structure. Hire a professional to determine the extent of compromise.
The joists holding up the deck are equally important to ensure the deck’s stability. They are hard to replace without tearing apart the deck, so if they are rotting or soft, it is likely time to rebuild. Unfortunately, these signs may be indicative of other home or yard issues which you may need to investigate as well.
A term you may be less familiar with is ledger board. The ledger board is the portion of deck that attaches to the house. If the ledger board is pulling away it could cause the deck to collapse under certain conditions, which is a tell-tale sign that you are heading towards replacement. Finally, you should check for evidence of termite damage that can severely compromise the deck.
What to Consider Before Moving Forward with A New Deck
If the deck is not found to be structurally beyond repair, but will require a large amount of work, consider the costs associated with both the repairs and with replacement (remember to take into consideration all costs that may be related to a new install including removal of the existing deck). You may find that it makes more sense to replace based on the short and long-term costs attributed to repairs. If you have not received feedback from a professional, a site such as a Home Advisor can provide an estimate of what you may be looking at when budgeting for repairs.
Maybe safety is not the issue, but you have grand plans for relaxing and entertaining and your current deck size or layout don’t jive with your visions. If you are seeking replacement solely due to aesthetics or usage, write down how you plan to use the space, such as for barbecuing and hosting parties or setting up lounge chairs for rest and relaxation. This will assist with planning the layout and size of the new build. Or, there are many new materials which will reduce the amount of maintenance and improve longevity of your investment. This alone may sway your decision.
How much is your house worth and how long do you plan to reside there? If you believe that a move is in the near future, a modest new installation may be wise. Size matters — the size of the deck should be complementary to the size of your home. How will your property taxes be affected? It is possible that your property taxes will increase after adding a new deck. What changes need to be made to your home insurance policy? The cost of the new deck should be communicated to your insurance provider so that additional coverage can be added to your policy.
Time plays a major factor in making the decision. Once you commit to replacement, you’ll have to find a contractor and then work through the details including materials, size, and any add-ons such as lighting or coverings. There will also be wait times associated with permits and inspection. The best time of year for installation also comes into play. Just keep in mind that as the warmer weather approaches, the demand for installations increases. You’ll want to be able to schedule your build at a time that will allow you to get maximum usage of your amazing new space.