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4 Signs You Need Deck Repair (Plus Tips!)

Is there anything better than hanging out on the deck in warm weather? Whether you’re hosting barbecues, taking a dip in the hot tub, or just soaking up the sunshine, your outdoor living space is the best place to spend the summer.

There’s one thing that can really put a damper on the fun—when you need deck repair. Splintery boards, wobbly railings, and popping nails are unsightly, but they’re also a dangerous hazard for your friends and family to dodge.

However, spotting the places that need repair isn’t always easy. Read on for four signs that your deck is in need of attention, and some tips on what to do when you find damage.

1. Boards Are Cracked

If the surface of your deck is made of lumber, it’s normal for small cracks to appear in the boards over time. While small cracks aren’t a big deal, they can turn into big cracks (and big deals) if left unchecked.

Take a good look at the visible surfaces of the boards, especially in high-traffic areas and areas that are most exposed to the elements. If you see cracks that are less than about six inches (and not very wide), they’re considered small. Larger cracks will be longer than six inches or may have widened significantly.

Tip: Fill Small Cracks With Epoxy

There’s a fairly easy fix for small, narrow cracks: fill them in with latex wood filler and wait for it to cure (follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure it’s fully dry), then apply sealant over top.

If the cracks are long but shallow and narrow, pry up the board and take a look on the other side. Back side free of cracks? Just flip it over and nail it back into place; then apply sealant. But, if the back side is cracked as well, the board will need to be replaced.

2. Paint or Stain is Peeling and Chipping

When paint or stain is peeling off the wood or chipping away, it’s generally because it wasn’t sealed properly or the sealant has eroded. It’s unattractive and leaves the wood vulnerable to splintering and rot. Check places like the tops of railings and anywhere sealant has worn down for paint and stain flaking, or areas where the wood has already splintered.

Tip: Sand and Refinish Peeling Areas

If the peeling and splintering is extensive and the whole deck needs to be refinished, you’re probably going to want to call in a professional handyman—this is going to be a lot of work. A large floor sander will help, but smaller, hard-to-reach areas will need hand-sanding to remove the old finishing and get the wood smooth and primed.

If you’ve only found a couple tiny patches of peeling, get some coarse or medium-grit sandpaper and work away at it until it’s smooth; then refinish and seal the wood to protect it from future decay.

3. Timber is Rotten

The dreaded wood rot strikes again. Wood rot is decay caused by fungal growth, and the fungus needs a moisture content of 20% or higher to take hold, so it’s not hard to understand why wood rot is often found in outdoor spaces.

Look around your deck for these signs of rotten timber:

  • Discoloration where patches appear lighter or darker than the surrounding area

  • Texture changes where the wood looks spongy, stringy, or webbed with cracks; or is breaking into cube-shaped chunks

  • Mushrooms sprouting up (if it’s very advanced)

When you find an area that you suspect is rotten, take a screwdriver and press it against the wood. If it sinks right in with little or no resistance, you’ve got wood rot.

Tip: Replace Rotten Planks

If the decay is advanced and many or all of the planks are infected with rot, give Mr. Handyman a call to come out and take a look at it. The deck will likely need to be replaced. It’s a good idea to check nearby parts of your home as well since the rot can spread—and some types of wood rot fungi can travel over or through masonry.

But if only a couple planks are showing signs of rot, pry them up and replace them with new lumber. Then, treat the surrounding planks with a borate or copper wood preservative.

4. Railings are Loose and Wobbly

Railings are sometimes the only thing between us and a nasty fall off the edge of the deck, so it’s important that they’re firmly in place. Grab a hold of the railing and give it a shake—if it moves at all, it’s in need of repairs.

Common problem-spots include areas where the railing joins up with either the house, a post, or another stretch of railing. Examine these areas carefully for nails and screws that are loosening up, and check the entire railing for signs of wood rot.

Tip: Replace Loose Nails or Screws

If pressure on the railing has caused nails and screws to loosen over time, remove the old nails or screws and replace them—but, make sure to place them in a different location on the joining boards where the wood isn’t damaged.

However, if the nails and screws are loose due to wood rot or the nails and screws don’t seem to be the issue, have Mr. Handyman assess the situation. You may need to have the railing replaced entirely—and the new one will be much safer! While you’re at it, you might choose to upgrade with a new design or set up some built-in seating around the perimeter of the deck.

Call Mr. Handyman to Take Care of Deck Repair!

Whether you need a few minor repairs or are looking for a total deck overhaul just in time for warm weather, the friendly folks at Mr. Handyman of Central - Eastern Norfolk County and South Shore have the expertise to create your perfect outdoor living space!

Give us a call today at 508-465-2092, or fill out our request service form, and we’ll show you why we’re the best local handyman service for all your deck repair needs.