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How to renovate a timber deck

Adam_W
Valued Contributor

Difficulty: Intermediate

A timber deck is an easy and effective way to enhance your outdoor lifestyle space. But what happens when your old deck needs some serious repair work? You don’t need to call in the experts – a deck renovation can certainly be a D.I.Y. job.

Steps

Step 1

A deck like this with rotting slats and dangerously damaged balustrades is in desperate need of work.

 

Remove any fences or rails that may obstruct your work but do leave any in place as required for safety. Starting from one end of one edge start removing old decking. For hardwood you may need to hammer the bar under before prying up.

 

When demolishing and rebuilding always wear ear, eye and hand protection. And as you’ll be walking on open joists (possibly at height) take care to prevent falls. We retained sections of decking to serve as platforms until we had new decking laid to work from.

 

1.1 Deck in need of serious work.jpg  1.2 Rotting slats and dangerous balustrades.jpg  1.3 Remove old decking.jpg 1.4 Ear, eye and hand protection.jpg  1.5 Take care working at height.jpg

Step 2

Inspect the top of all existing bearers and joists to ensure they are sound and rot-free. Check any posts that will be retained to make sure they are sound and secure. Thoroughly clean the top of bearers and joists to remove any loose material. Inspect any bolts that may be attaching your deck to walls and posts. Lightly sand and surfaces you plan to paint and then apply at least two coats of paint. You’ll find this easier than trying mask around decking boards later.

 

2. Apply at least two coats of paint.jpg

 

Step 3

You can fix your decking down in a number of ways and the type of fasteners you select can vary by decking type. For example:

 

  • Galvanised helical threaded nails (often called screw nails) resist deck board movement.
  • Climacote Philips #2 drive screws - this type of coating (or similar Class 3 minimum) is required when using ACQ treated timber.
  • Stainless steel square-drive decking screws - use stainless steel around saltwater pools or near the ocean. 

 

If you use hardwood decking or have hardwood joists you’ll need to pre-drill for every nail or screw. It’s also recommended to always pre-drill when using stainless steel decking screws as they are more inclined to break under drilling stresses.

 

3. Galvanised nails, drive screws and decking screws.jpg

Step 4

Treated pine decking is generally reeded on one side. This is often mistakenly thought to be for extra grip. The reeding is designed to go on the underside. This helps prevent cupping and also maximises airflow over joists preventing moisture build-up that may otherwise lead to rot. Leaving it face up can in-fact lead to rot as dirt and moisture collect in the grooves and stays damp.

 

4. Reeding is designed to go on the underside.jpg

 

Step 5

Starting from the end of an outside edge secure your first board. Boards must always be secured to at least three joists to prevent bending. Cut to size accordingly. For smaller decks you may be able to use continuous lengths without needing to have joins. Avoid having joins in a straight line, so first board run may be longer board on left and shorter on right and then the opposite for the next run.


It is important to sink a screw or nail on either side of the board to stop the board from ‘cupping’ up.

 

5.1 Boards must be secured to at least three joists.jpg  5.2 Sink a screw or nail on either side of the board.jpg

 

Step 6

As you lay each board you need to ensure there is adequate space between them as well as between walls and posts. This is to allow moisture and dirt to drop through but also to give the boards room to shrink and expand with temperature and humidity. It’s important that you keep these spacings equal along the length of the board and across the entire deck. A gap of around 5mm is pretty typical. You can use a tool such as a chisel, provided you have a couple of the same size, or you can buy deck spacers.

 

6. Ensure there is adequate space between boards.jpg

 

Step 7

Always pre-drill on ends to avoid splitting, with treated pine decking this is likely the only time you’ll need to pre-drill. If however you are using hardwood decking or have hardwood joists you will need to pre-drill for every fastener.

 

7. Pre-drill on ends to avoid splitting.jpg

 

Step 8

Cut handrail panels to size. To ensure panel appearance is balanced remove equal lengths from either end. For example, if you need to reduce panel width by 80mm take 40mm from either end. Slide brackets onto all ends, position panel, use 50 or 75mm screws to secure one top end, check level, secure other top end, check panel is plumb and screw-off bottom brackets.

 

8. Check panel is plumb before screwing off bottom brackets.jpg

 

Step 9

Clean down decking and oil or treat with product of your choosing. Clear or natural oils are ideal for enhancing colour and grain of most hardwoods. Treated pine can be sealed with clear oil or use a tinted product to mimic other wood colours. Select a water-based decking ‘oil’ as you’ll find them much easier to work with and clean up.

 

9. Oils are ideal for enhancing colour and grain of hardwood.jpg

Step 10

On one end of our deck we decided to construct a raked privacy screen. This used the existing balcony posts and then a new post was added against the house wall. Timber was salvaged from the removed deck, cleaned and then painted with the same paint as the posts. This was an economical way to provide privacy and add a retreat feel to the deck.

 

Now you are finished you can enjoy the deck again. A little work takes your old deck from off-limits to a relaxing, chill-out zone that’s also perfect for entertaining friends and family.

 

10.1 Consider a privacy screen.jpg  10.2 Completed deck.jpg

 

Materials

  • Decking boards (we used 90 x 22mm ACQ treated pine decking boards)
  • Decking oil or sealer (we used Cabot’s Aquadeck)
  • Suitable decking nails or screws
  • Exterior paint for posts (we used Dulux Weathershield low-sheen)
  • Fence panels (we used 2400 x 900mm black, flat-top aluminium and brackets)
  • Exterior grade 50 or 75mm hex-head timber screws (for handrail brackets)

Tools

  • Crowbar
  • Hammer
  • Drill-driver with bit for pre-drill and screwing
  • Spacing tool
  • Paint tray
  • Decking paint applicator
  • Nail gun with exterior nails
  • Paint brush or roller

Images

1.1 Deck in need of serious work.jpg

1.2 Rotting slats and dangerous balustrades.jpg

1.3 Remove old decking.jpg

1.4 Ear, eye and hand protection.jpg

1.5 Take care working at height.jpg

2. Apply at least two coats of paint.jpg

3. Galvanised nails, drive screws and decking screws.jpg

4. Reeding is designed to go on the underside.jpg

5.1 Boards must be secured to at least three joists.jpg

5.2 Sink a screw or nail on either side of the board.jpg

6. Ensure there is adequate space between boards.jpg

7. Pre-drill on ends to avoid splitting.jpg

8. Check panel is plumb before screwing off bottom brackets.jpg

9. Oils are ideal for enhancing colour and grain of hardwood.jpg

10.1 Consider a privacy screen.jpg

10.2 Completed deck.jpg

1 Reply
Jason
Community Manager
Community Manager

Many thanks for sharing your expertise with the Workshop community once again @Adam_W. Great to have you as one of our valued members. 

 

Visitors to this fantastic step-by-step guide might be interested in our Top 10 most popular deck projects on Workshop, which includes a little deck renewal project I tackled a few years back that prompted some good discussion. It might be helpful for those who are planning on sanding their deck this year now that the weather is starting to warm up and we can start outdoor entertaining again. Please feel free to hit the Start a discussion button if you ever need a hand with a decking project. 

 

Jason

  

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