What to Consider When Resurfacing a Deck
I was out on a job site recently and had the opportunity to engage with some customers who were planning to do some deck resurfacing. It was a good reminder for me to consider all the things that should be evaluated when tackling a seemingly simple project like this. Here’s a short list of items worth considering when you resurface a deck of your own.
Check for Safety Concerns
This is a great time to check out all of the structural framing hardware like hangers and connectors. You should also inspect the ledger board connection method, as well as the way the railing posts are attached to the deck framing—these are very important elements which need to be installed properly. If you’re not sure what’s required, consider reaching out to a professional deck builder or your local building department.
At this point, it's also good to evaluate the age of your deck framing materials and decide whether to rebuild the entire deck—our good friend Ron Spillers of West Coast Decks uses eight years as a guideline.
Rebuilding the entire deck certainly has some advantages: you can update the shape of your deck in a rebuild, and you'll have a brand new treated framework to accompany your new decking. If you're having your deck rebuilt by a licensed contractor, you'll find there's a very small difference in the price of a properly resurfaced deck vs. an entirely new deck. This is primarily due to all the labor involved in carefully removing the old deck boards and then properly prepping and leveling the old framework. If you're tackling this work yourself, labor savings might be a motivator for you.
Finally, old wood decking likely won’t show the ups and downs of your existing deck framework, but manufactured decking will. With that in mind, invest the time necessary to get all your deck joists level.
Evaluate Joist Spacing
Unless your new deck surface will be hardwood or two-by lumber, you really need joist spacing of 16” on-center or closer for most products on the market today. For some manufactured decking, adding a joist to a framework that’s 24” on-center can produce unsatisfactory results if the new joists shrink over time. If you’re thinking of installing your decking in a diagonal pattern, 12” on-center joist spacing is required for most products.
Install Flashing Tape
If the treated framework is still in good shape, cover the tops of all joists and beams with a flashing tape (like Vycor Deck Protector). This will keep the moisture out of the old screw and nail holes as well as the spaces between sistered framing members. It’ll also help preserve the life of your deck. If some—or all—of your deck framing isn’t looking like it will last another 25 years, this would be the time to consider replacing it.
Install Additional Framing Details as Needed
If your decking board layout will have any butt joints (seams), you should add an additional joist at that point so you can meet the fastening requirements for some of the manufactured decking products. This practice allows you to install the fastener further back from the end of the deck board, which will keep the board from cracking or splitting. Pre-drilling may also be required, so keep that in mind.
This is also the time to do any additional framing necessary to achieve a code-compliant installation of railing posts that are to be attached to your deck framing. If you’re planning on a railing system that’s surface-mounted to your deck boards, now’s the time to add the required blocking. If you plan to use a picture-frame design when installing new decking, this is also the time to add the extra framing to support that layout. As always, remember to treat and coat all cut ends with an end-cut solution (we like Wolman’s) to preserve the warranty on your lumber.
Evaluate the Airflow for Low-Level Decks
Lack of air circulation or decks too close to the ground can create challenges for wood deck boards and even some manufactured decking products. If your design is low to the ground or you can’t supply adequate ventilation, consider a decking material like MoistureShield or Deckorator’s “Vault” product line.
Trim Both Factory Ends of Capped-Composite Decking
If you’re resurfacing a deck with composite decking, pay special attention to the factory ends. Due to how these products are manufactured, the ends of capped-composite boards might not be completely square or even. It’s recommended that you trim both ends of your capped-composite deck boards. PVC boards don’t typically have this challenge, but if you’re using them, it’s a good idea to check just in case.
Invest in High-Quality Fasteners
Most decks are constructed with the hopes that they’ll last a very long time. You don’t want to have your fasteners reach end of life before your deck boards do. Stainless steel is the preferred choice for wood decking, and most manufactured decking products come with a list of approved fasteners that’ve been tested with that particular product line. Use the required amount of fasteners recommended by the fastener manufacturer. If you skimp on fasteners and experience a failure related to the fasteners, you won’t be protected by their warranty.
Choose the Correct Hidden Fastener
If you choose to go with a hidden fastener solution to install your deck boards, you may want to choose one that allows you to replace a single board in the middle of your deck. Some systems require you to remove all the boards between your bad board and the nearest edge of your deck, and then reinstall everything again. Your first priority is to choose a system that’s compatible with your brand and style of decking, after which you may want to inquire as to which of those systems allow the easiest board replacement.
There are certainly other factors, but considering this list will go a long way toward achieving quality results on your resurfacing project.