Five weeks until Christmas countdown: a checklist
The most visible problems are often associated with the decking boards. Cracks, rot and splintering pose safety hazards, but if only a few boards are affected, they can be replaced without too much drama.
To remove individual boards that are nailed down, use a pry bar to lever them up. If the boards are secured with screws, use a cordless drill or impact driver to remove the fasteners. Choose new boards with the same section size, and cut them to fit the gaps. As you secure the boards to the joists, use a chisel to lever the boards into position for even spacing along their length.
Older boards are often nailed down and, over time, the nails might start to work loose. Lift the boards, remove the nails using a pry bar, then replace with heavy-gauge screws that will grip the joists securely.
Rot is a common problem in the mitred joints at the corners of timber handrails. If the mitred ends are badly damaged, the best option is to cut a whole new handrail, then paint it or stain it to match the balusters.
If the joint has only opened up slightly, chisel away the rot until you reach sound timber and apply an outdoor wood sealing treatment. Fill the area with a two-part polyester filler, such as Turbo Builder's Bog, sand smooth once it has cured, and then repaint over the top.
The stirrups holding up the posts of older decks might be sunk directly into concrete. This creates a potential decay risk as rainwater soaks into the concrete, causing deterioration of the posts over time. Use an angle grinder with a diamond blade to cut about 20mm clearance around the stirrup, then use a cold chisel to remove the concrete around the base of the post.
Use the angle grinder to cut a drainage channel for rainwater to flow away freely instead of pooling around the base of the post.
Safety tip: It's essential that your deck is structurally sound, so check it regularly and if you have any concerns, consult the professionals.
While replacing boards or fasteners, you might discover rot in one or more of the joists. As long as the bearers are sound and the damage is not too major, there is no need to demolish your whole deck. “If there is rot all the way through the joist, you will need to remove it and replace it with an identical-size joist,” says Co-Owner of Fresh Decks Sydney Niall McDarby. “If the rot is only at the surface and the joist is still structurally sound lower down, you can attach a new joist along the side of it and into the trimmers at each end. This will support the existing joist and provide a solid fixing for the decking boards on top.”
According to Niall, people often wait too long to recoat their deck. “A product like Intergrain Natural Stain should be reapplied after about 12–15 months,” he says. “But sometimes, life gets in the way and it takes three years to get around to the job. Unfortunately, once grey timber starts poking through, you will need to sand the boards back and start again.”
Use an electric sander with coarse-grit paper to strip the boards back to bare timber (you can hire a sander from Bunnings for the task). Be sure to wear full safety gear, including knee pads, a dust mask, hearing protection and goggles or safety glasses. “Finish with a nice, fine grit to close up the fibres before recoating,” says Niall. Then all you need to do is add a fresh lick of stain, and your deck will look good as new!
Minimise maintenance hassles by cleaning and recoating your deck annually. Here's how:
“Use a deck-cleaning product to prepare the timber for coating by removing dirt, oils, grease and other contaminants,” says Monarch Brand Ambassador Mark O'Connor. Apply the product with a stiff-bristled brush, scrub the deck thoroughly, leave for 20 minutes, then rinse off with a hose.
“Use a woodcare brush on the first coat to apply the stain to the edges of each decking board,” says Mark. Cut in around the deck and along the gaps between boards. A lambswool applicator can be used for the upper surface of the deck. “Before use, wash the applicator to ensure no loose fibres will end up stuck in the finish,” adds Mark. Allow it to dry fully before applying decking oil or a solvent-based stain.
Complete the second coat with the lambswool applicator. “I suggest doing an extra third coat as well,” says Mark. “This will ensure the finish you've applied looks great for longer.”
Now you know some quick tips for renewing your deck, check out your local Bunnings to pick up everything you need.
Photo credit: Cabot's Premium Woodcare Brands