Deck repair is a yearly activity for every home owner. But have you been outdoors lately and noticed some unsightly damage to your wooden deck? Is the damage a sign of something much worse? Is this normal wear and tear? Can you get away with some low-cost maintenance? Is it time for a brand new deck replacement?
These are most likely questions you have asked yourself if you noticed deck damage on your beloved deck.
Unfortunately, It can be difficult to tell when it is time to repair or replace your deck. But if you are seeing any of the following signs, it might be time for some maintenance: Warping, cracking, rotting, splintering, mold or mildew, insect damage, and wood rot. If you are noticing any of these problems, it is best to consult with a contractor to see if a new deck replacement is the best option.
In this guide, our experts will help you decide if you need to do some major deck repair, like deck replacement, or if you just need to do some routine maintenance. Since we are wood deck experts, we hope to give you some wisdom to help save you money and reduce the time fixing your wooden deck.
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Board Cracks and Deck Repair
Wood deck board cracking is a common sign of deck deterioration. It can be caused by several factors, such as weathering, moisture, sun exposure, and insects. If you are noticing wood boards are cracking, it is important to repair or replace them as soon as possible before the problem becomes more severe. Leaving the cracks unrepaired can cause further damage to your deck, and can even lead to deck failure.
Typically, wood boards will crack around their ends, where knots are, and where screws go through boards. Depending on the severity of the cracks, you still may be able to repair the damage.
If the crack is less than 6 inches it is typically safe to try to repair the damage. Here are the steps you should follow to repair the board:
How to Repair Cracked Boards
- First, you will want to smooth the top of the deck's surface around the crack in the board. Using either an orbital or belt sander smooth the top of the board so it is a nice, clean, and has a continuously smooth surface.
- Blow off any debris on the top of the board and the crack so the adhesive can stick.
- Fill the crack in the board with a latex wood filler. This filler will prevent water from getting back into the crack and causing it to continue to grow.
- Re-stain the deck board to reseal the board and cover the filler
What is Deck Wood Rot and is it Serious?
Deck board rot is a serious problem and should not be ignored. If you are noticing any of the following symptoms, you likely have rotted wood:
- soft or spongy wood deck boards.
- mushrooms or mildew growing on the deck
- musty smell
If you are seeing any of these signs, it is important to do deck repair to the damage as soon as possible. Left untreated, the problem will only get worse and can even lead to further deck failure.
Unfortunately, unlike deck board cracks, wood rot cannot be treated. The typical solution is to pull up the affected deck board and replace it with a new one. Be aware that when you pull up the old deck board, you should also look at the joist underneath. It is possible that if the rot on the deck board above is bad enough it affected the joist below.
If the joist below is also damaged due to rot this will need to be replaced before a new deck board gets put back down.
Do You Need to Replace Splintered Deck Boards?
If you are noticing that your deck boards are splintering, it is a sign that the deck is starting to deteriorate and needs repair. Sometimes, if the damage is caught early enough, it can be repaired.
Typically, splintering happens when the wood fibers become weak and separate from the main body of the board. You will normally see splinters around the ends of the boards or where screws are inserted. Both of these areas are the weak points of lumber and naturally the areas where splintering happens.
Additionally, the end of the boards is the areas where wood sealer cannot reach during annual maintenance. For this reason, these areas are not protected with sealant and therefore they absorb seasonal moisture.
To repair the damage, you can use a wood filler to fill in the splinters, though oftentimes this is not an adequate solution. If you do decide to try and repair the damage, make sure to use a filler that is designed for wood repair. These fillers will have a base of latex, or epoxy, that will help to prevent further moisture absorption.
This will guarantee that the deck board and the splintered area will withstand future weathering and moisture. If a filler is not able to repair the board then the entire board will need to be replaced.
Insect Damage on Wood Decks
Insect damage on a wood deck is a common problem that can often be repaired. There are a few different types of insect damage that can occur on wood decks, but the most common is termite and wood bee damage.
Deck Repair and Termite Damage!
Termites are a very common type of wood-eating insects and they can cause a lot of damage to your deck. If you are noticing any of the following signs, you likely have termite damage:
- Wood that sounds hollow when you tap it
- Tiny holes in the wood
- Swollen or bubbly wood
- Mud tubes on the side of the deck structure
- Termite dropping around the base of boards
If you are seeing any of these signs, it is important to repair or replace decking material as soon as the damage is noticed. Left untreated, the problem can get worse and can even lead to further deck material failure.
Fortunately, deck repair for termite damage can be done if the damage is caught early. It is not always necessary to replace the entire deck when termite damage is initially found.
To perform the repair you will need to remove and replace deck boards that are affected by the damage. Be sure to check the joists underneath the damaged boards, as they may also be damaged.
If you can repair the termite damage, be sure to apply a sealant to the repaired boards to prevent future insect infestations.
Is there Deck Repair for Carpenter Bee Damage?
Carpenter bee damage on decks is another common problem that can often be repaired. Carpenter bees are a type of bee that feeds on wood and they can cause a lot of damage to your deck. If you are noticing any of the following signs, you likely have wood bee damage:
- Holes in the wood
- Droppings around the base of the deck
Fortunately, this type of damage can be repaired as bees only damage small areas. The typical course of action is to replace deck boards that are damaged and reseal them. In some cases, the holes can be filled.
To future-proof your deck you can buy bee traps to prevent them from eating the deck. These bee traps vary in style and most of the time they can be found at your local hardware store.
What Causes Cupped, Warped, Bowed, and Split Boards?
Deck boards can become cupped, warped, and bowed for a variety of reasons. Left unchecked the repairs can become very expensive. To help you diagnose and prevent the above we have given you the list below:
How the Deck Boards are Fastened
One of the most common reasons for cupped, warped and bowed deck boards is that the deck is not properly fastened to the joists. When the deck is not properly fastened (rusted nails), and the top of the board is wetter than the bottom, it will want to move.
This movement will cause the boards to put excessive pressure on fasteners which will loosen deck components. Ultimately, this can cause the boards to cup, warp, and bow as they try to expand and contract with the weather changes.
Deck Repair for Excessive Moisture Absorption
Another common reason for deck boards to cup, warp, and bow is moisture absorption. When deck boards are not protected with a sealant, they will absorb moisture from the air and become swollen. This swelling can create loose boards by moving fasteners in the joists. This will cause the boards to cup, warp, and bow if the boards are not re-fastened.
Inadequate Deck Board Support Structure
Lastly, one of the most common reasons for boards that cup, warp, and bow, is when the deck material is not getting enough support from the joists underneath. This can often be caused by improper installation techniques where the joist spacing is too large. The inadequate support puts excessive stress on boards which causes them to deform with moisture, foot traffic, and the weight of deck furniture.
When the deck boards are not getting enough support, they will start to cup, warp, and bow. This can often be seen when there is a curve in the boards or when they are no longer flat.
If you are noticing that your boards are starting to show signs of cupping, warping, or bowing it is important to not only fix the issue but diagnose the cause of the problem. Just repairing or replacing deck boards, without solving the root issue, can cause the problem to come back again.
If you are seeing any of the signs of damage mentioned in this article, it is time to repair your deck. In most cases, this can be a relatively simple process, but it is important to diagnose the cause of the problem before starting repairs. In some cases, such as insect damage or rotting boards, more extensive repairs, such as a new deck, will be necessary.
Be sure to consult with your deck contractor if you are unsure about what needs to be done. By taking care of these problems early on, you can avoid expensive and difficult-to-repair damages down the road.