Revive Your Deck
Sometimes, a little freshening up is all it takes to make your old deck look and feel new again.
Sure, a new deck would be nice. So would keeping in your pocket the $4,000 or $5,000 it might cost to build a new one. Sometimes, a little freshening up is all it takes to make your old deck look and feel new again.
If your deck is structurally unsound or way too small for comfort, replacing it is your best option. For the rest of us, here are some quick and easy ideas for sprucing it up.
Many people think of their deck as an outside room. That's even more apparent when you add an overhead trellis, pergola, canopy or awning. Structures like these provide protection from glaring sun and other elements and create a sense of enclosure as well.
Before adding these to your deck, be sure the deck is strong enough to support the added weight. There must be a way to firmly brace the uprights or arms that support the overhead materials. Talk to your local building official before tackling a project like this.
Install a new railing
Many old railings aren't only unattractive, but unsafe as well. Most codes now require railings be built so a 4-inch ball can't fit through any spindle space or other part of the railing system.
A wide variety of railing materials other than wood is now available. Some composite, metal and vinyl railings come as complete systems. They must be installed using the proper connectors and techniques.
Wood and other materials often allow more design flexibility. And, if you want a less obstructed view, consider cable, pipe and tempered glass.
Add a planter
Flowers are the quickest way to add color and pizzazz to outdoor areas—decks are no exception. Some planters, like the one shown, straddle the upper deck rail. Others can be secured to the spindles using brackets or other fasteners. Serious gardeners can even build large permanent planters that sit on the ground or are part of the deck's overall design.
Wherever you place your planters, be certain that the water that drains through them has someplace to go besides in a puddle on the deck or railing. Standing water on a wood deck is sure to promote rot and shorten its life.
Install attractive lights, and you'll get twice the bang for your buck. They'll make your deck look good at night, and the lights themselves look handsome during the day, too.
The easiest type of deck lighting to install is low-voltage. With this system, a transformer plugs into a high-voltage GFCI-protected outlet, but all the wires leading from the transformer to the lights are smaller, easier to install and safer to handle.
The post light shown here is one of many options. There are recessed lights you can inset into stairs, rope lights you can tuck under ledges, surface-mount lights for general lighting, in-ground lights and more.
Resurface with low-maintenance boards.
If the beams and joists supporting your deck are solid, reduce maintenance and freshen up the surface with newer, easy-to-care-for top boards. Tearing up the old boards is a chore, but it's a lot easier than rebuilding your deck from scratch.
Low-maintenance composite deck boards can cost two to three times as much as treated wood at $1.50 to $2 per lineal foot. However, they'll last longer, require less upkeep and install just as easily as wood.
Before purchasing any materials, it's important to check with the manufacturer on how the decking needs to be supported. Double-check the spacing of your joists and use only the manufacturer's recommended fasteners and procedures.
Enclose the bottom of your deck
This won't make your deck look any better while you're seated on it, but it will make it look better every time you or someone else walks up to it. Enclosing your deck will also keep critters and pets from meandering under it.
The project normally involves installing a 2x4 nailer or skirt between the bottoms of the posts for securing vertical boards or lattice panels. Leave a removal panel of some sort for future access...just in case.
Clean and refinish your deck
Cleaning, then staining or applying a clear finish to a deck, provides that same sense of immediate satisfaction as painting or wallpapering a room. Pressure washing, sanding and applying strippers are the most common ways to bring the wood back to life, but there is a variety of chemicals and methods on the market. Most decks can be renewed in one weekend for less than $100.
Always wear the correct protective gear when using chemicals or operating a pressure washer, protect surrounding plants and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Firm up rickety stairs
Nothing says "time to fix me up" louder than a rickety old set of stairs. If the stair stringers are cracked, rotten or overly bouncy, disassemble the stairs and use the old stringers as patterns for cutting new ones. If they're basically in good shape, securing skirt boards to the two outside stringers will make them look better and feel more solid. Replace the treads and risers while you're at it.