The Deck Renovation Dilemma: Repair or Replace?
Homeowners frequently need to consider whether to repair or replace an aging deck. Time always takes its toll, and older decks were often built with materials and methods that could shorten their lives. But deck renovation or replacing an older deck is actually a positive opportunity, a chance to modernize. You can now make use of the best knowledge: your experience with your old deck. A deck replacement is that rare opportunity in life for a re-do of things that were not perfectly done in the first place.
Deck Renovation: Repair or Replace?
The decision whether to repair or replace a deck depends primarily on the condition of your existing deck, as determined by decay of planking, posts, and fasteners. Also in the decision is whether you intend to add size or amenities to the project.
A primary advantage of deck repair is economy: repair will generally use less in the way of materials and labour than a full deck replacement. But the option of repair is not always available.
Is decay cosmetic? Does the decay affect decking only? Then repair might be an option, assuming you do not have other more extensive changes in mind. If the project is simply re-planking the deck (deck board replacement, or “resurfacing”), then the process involves removing the old planking; levelling the joists by shaving down high points or inserting shims to raise low points; then putting down new planking.
If fasteners are loose or protruding then they might need to be re-fastened.
Although deck repair can be money-saving, it rarely makes sense to re-use materials. They are already old, and using them again is likely to reduce the longevity of your project. Also, mixed new and old materials will detract from the appearance you desire.
Rot, mould, and splintering are typical in aging wood decking. But when the underlying posts, joists, ledger board, and foundations are involved, deck replacement is the only logical option.
Is the decay structural? Does it extend to framing, joists, posts? Are fasteners rusted or gone altogether? Then replacement is the only option.
An Opportunity to Reconsider
A deck replacement or repair gives the chance to correct known defects or shortcomings in your existing deck. It can also be a time to re-balance the ratio between deck and yard.
This is the time to re-think the size of your deck: Is it adequate or not? and does it consist of wholly workable space?
When looking at your old deck, consider: did it have adequate seating and an optimal shape?
What about adding extensions? Deck design is continually evolving and new ideas are always coming along. Seating, lighting, grill design, kitchen concepts, and storage ideas have all seen innovations in recent years that you might want to incorporate into your deck renovation.
As deck renovation can be extensive or total, now is also the time to consider shade structures. Perhaps it is the time to add a gazebo or pergola.
Whether the project is repair or replacement, new materials will be used. This means another opportunity to take advantage of advances in materials for foundations, footings, piers, framing, and planking. New decks also replace nails with better fasteners. Decking screws or invisible fasteners are commonplace. Contemporary designs for railings and stairs are innovative and attractive.
The industry transition from wood to composite materials is another development to exploit when looking at deck renovation or replacement. The decision of what quality of materials to use is one of balancing longevity versus maintenance.
Develop a Game Plan
Look to Professionals
As you approach your deck repair or deck replacement project, it can be extremely helpful to get a professional assessment. A professional can decide whether repair or replacement is the best route to go. They can advise on what potential for change exists, they can estimate costs, and they can ensure compliance with new regulations and codes. “Grandfathering” scenarios—situations when a preexisting non-compliant deck is permitted to exist outside new regulations—are rare and usually of doubtful benefit in any case.
Look to Your Priorities
The decision whether to repair or replace a deck depends on what you want from the finished deck. Will you be expecting years of use from the renovated deck, or are you planning on selling the property in the near future?
Integration with the surrounding yard is also important. Yards change over time: trees grow and die, grass and gardens evolve.
Finally, you will want to time your project to avoid disruptions. You might have to lose use of the yard for a period, so its best to scrap your old deck or repair it in the late fall or early spring in Ontario.
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