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Revamping a Worn-Out Deck

If the prospect of replacing your worn-out deck sounds expensive and overwhelming, good news, it may not be necessary. Rather than replace a deck and add debris to the landfills, it’s often possible to make the eco-friendly choice of breathing new life into an old deck.


Examine the entire deck. Look for elevated or missing nails or loose screws and stained, faded or splintered sections. Inspect for loose or warped boards and wobbly railings.

To check for termite damage or rotted sections, poke suspect areas with the tip of a screwdriver to determine the integrity of the wood. If the screwdriver easily breaks the surface of the wood and sinks in, you will need to replace that board or section. Also step back and eye the entire deck for sloping, which can indicate rot at ground level in the sunken area.


Once you’ve identified the various areas that require repair, begin by removing any loose nails and replacing them with more reliable coated screws, which do a better job of staying in place. In areas with missing nails, add screws. If the deck was built with screws, re-tighten any that appear loose.

Next, replace rotted, damaged or warped boards. If the entire board isn’t affected, you can cut out just the damaged area, however, make sure to only remove a piece that includes at least three joists. Cut the replacement deck board to fit snugly, as slight shifting will occur after installation and you don’t want a gap. Use screws to secure the board in place. The new section will fade in color in time and resemble the surrounding areas. Also install bolts in areas where the railing is loose.


Sweep the deck well and remove all debris. Apply soapy water or deck cleaner and use a brush to scrub out stains. To eradicate mildew and algae, mix a solution of one-part warm water to one-part bleach. Mineral spirits remove tree sap stains.

You can clean a large deck with a pressure washer and rinse off built-up debris, but you may still have to scrub stubborn stains by hand. Rinse the deck well to remove all of the cleaning solution.

After you’ve cleaned the deck and it has dried completely, sand any rough or chipped areas with an electric sander. If stained areas remained after cleaning, sand them out at this time as well.

Stain and Seal

While clear or transparent stain works well on new wood, older decks that have some permanent staining and uneven coloring look best with a semitransparent stain that hides imperfections while still showing the grain. Colored stains also do a better job of protecting wood from UV rays. Make sure that the stain you choose has a built-in sealant and apply two to three coats for the best coverage and protection.

If you have an elevated deck, clean the underside and stain and seal that area as well to prevent water damage and rotting.

Avoid applying glossy varnish or shellac to your wood deck. Though the shine looks good initially, such products break down under moisture and the sun’s rays, eventually peeling and requiring that you re-stain and re-seal.

Decks constructed of composite wood don’t require staining and sealing, but they do need thorough cleaning.

Once you’ve renovated your wooden deck, pull up a chair, sit down and enjoy the view. Congratulate yourself on the fact that you made an eco-friendly choice to save your deck.

By Julie Bawden-Davis

Ready to get started on your deck? Take a look at eieihome’s directory of deck contractors.

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