Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Deck work

Before we bought this home late last year, Don carefully inspected it inside and out. He's experienced at this sort of thing, and would recognize any issues that might convince us it was not a good purchase. But he came away satisfied. In fact, we've been very pleased so far with this home. Very few maintenance problems have arisen.

The one exception is the decking. During his initial look-through, Don made note that some portions of the decking around the house were rotting. Other spots had boards that were loose. Everything needed a good coat of rain-proofing. 

The house has two broad porches connected by wrap-around decks, so it's a lot of outdoor wood to maintain. We made do last winter, but this was a project Don wanted to tackle before this upcoming winter because, quite frankly, some portions of the deck didn't look like they'd make it through another season.

But of course the need to replace boards came at a time when lumber became very expensive, so he had to get creative in how he repaired things.

He started off with the back porch. This is a covered extension with a splendid view and double doors opening right onto it, bringing the outside in.

But the plywood on the deck had never been treated; or if it had, the treatment had long since worn off. This is what Don tackled first.

He began by clearing the deck of everything, including the outdoor carpet, then sweeping it clean.

And then, get this, he vacuumed it. Well, why not?

Then he got ready to roll it with a waterproof wood sealant.

It took several days for the sealant to soak completely into the wood and then dry.

During that time poor Mr. Darcy was excluded. He was glad when he got his porch back.

A few days later, Don tackled the walkway on the west side. When this deck was constructed, the contractor only used pressure-treated 4x4s fastened to the side of the deck with just screws – a precarious situation that was just waiting for disaster (especially since many of the screws were working their way out).

(photo taken this morning with a dusting of snow)

So Don got some pressure-treated 2x4s and sistered them to the 4x4s, making sure to place them under the deck for support. In the future, he'll bolt the 4x4s to the deck rather than using screws, but for now the deck is much more secure.

The rest of the walkway was in decent shape except for a few screws that had worked their way loose. Don re-tightened everything, then gave it a good coating with sealant.

When it rained a few days later, you can see how beautifully the water beaded up.

He saved the worst section of the deck for last. This was an uncovered deck on the east side of the house that was in such poor shape, I only walked on select portions for fear the rotted wood would give way. In fact, this was a spot we had to roll the wood cookstove over when we brought it into the house on a flatbed cart, and I was terrified the stove would fall through the rotted boards and end up crashing on the slope below.

So on a bright October day, Don got started.

He decided that, rather than replace the entire deck – a deck which we really didn't need (and which would have cost a fortune in 2x6s) – he would remove the deck and replace it with a "cat walk" wrap-around. The project took a couple of weeks.

He started by removing the side rails and uprights, which he carefully put aside for re-use.

Then he started removing the rotted deck boards.

And when I say rotted, I mean rotted.

Once the boards were off, he was able to see how bad the support joists were beneath. Short answer: very bad.

I mean, look at that.

These are all the boards from the deck. We'll stack them and reserve them for a project where rotting boards can be useful. These days, wood is too valuable to just toss.

The pressure-treated upright posts weren't in too bad a shape, except the very tops were rotting. Don covered them with plastic bags to keep them dry during a rainstorm.

He cut fresh 2x6s to make new joists.

He coated the joists with the same waterproof coating he used on the deck.


Then Don did something clever to deal with the damaged tops of the pressure-treated uprights: he dug out the rot down to the good wood, then filled the empty pockets with waterproof wood glue.

It took a few days for this glue to fully dry (the temperatures were cool), but the result was a good firm post once again.

The next step was to protect the tops of the joists (the narrow edge) so they wouldn't get soaked and start rotting again over time. The solution was to apply waterproof joist tape.

It's easy to apply: just peel'n'stick.

Then it was time to cut the new 2x6 boards to be used on the deck. Most of these boards were end pieces from previous projects (waste not, want not) that he kept specifically for this project. Don laid them all out on sawhorses and coated them with sealant.

When they were dry, he carted them over...

... and screwed them down with deck screws.

He used spacers to make sure there was enough of a gap to allow the boards to swell.

In go the screws.

It was exciting to watch the deck get reassembled. See what I mean by "cat walk"?

We have a small barbecue, and Don even built a little cul-de-sac for it.

Here he's laying the last of the decking.

During this process, we had to watch Mr. Darcy carefully. Without rails, there was a chance he would leap off the deck in pursuit of a deer, so he needed a chaperone whenever he used the yard.

When the decking was done, Don re-fastened the 4x4 rail uprights he had saved. (By the way, the spot where the rest of the deck used to be – with all those empty piers and uprights – we'll turn into a flower bed in the spring.)

A thing of beauty, no?

 Time to refasten the rails.

Here's the end result, dusted with this morning's light snowfall.

With care, these improved decks should last years. Another project, done.


  1. Another very nice project nicely done! You have a keeper there Patrice. I especially liked the use of weatherproof glue as a post rehab.

  2. Looks great.. and sturdy! Y'all will get many years of enjoyment out of those decks.

  3. Very nice, great use of on-hand materials. A wonderful example of "improvise, adapt, and overcome".


  4. Great job! Thanks for sharing the progress of it. Don is quite a handy guy!

  5. I'm always a sucker to watch his great projects. Nice job!

  6. Beautiful work! I love your shutters, too.

  7. I have never heard of waterproof tape. He does beautiful work. Now, you have safe footing.

  8. I saw some videos on YouTube of repairs to window and door frames with small portions of rot doing what Don did. Down south this past year seems everything was rotting, mildewing, and so forth with the neverending moisture. I have several places in need of repair. These supplies need to go on the list for next Home Depot run. Thanks for the reminder.
    We aren't just living in hard times. We are living in times of innovation, creativity, faith, hope, and love!
    Thank you for sharing all of those qualities with us.

  9. I hate the renovation shows where the first step is sledge hammers to perfectly good items. I'm always happy to see careful disassembly first. My wife and I are working on a room that had a giant built in cabinet that had to go. Took me an entire day to disassemble and save everything useable, including non-stripped screws and shelf clips. Already used some of the wood and screws to patch the floor where the cabinet was.