With each passing year, decks can become worn, cracked, and weathered as the structures linger in rains, sleet, snow, and sun. The wood can warp, rot, dry out, or simply become discolored, leading to an outdoor surface that is unpleasant to look at and uncomfortable to walk on.
Restoring a deck can be a good weekend project for an avid DIYer. The goals of the project should be to assess the current condition of the deck, make any necessary repairs to the structure, tighten existing fasteners, strip old paint or stain, clean the deck, sand the surface, and finish the job by adding a wood brightener before painting or staining to seal the wood against UV radiation and moisture. Use this guide to learn how to restore a weathered deck.
What to Consider Before Restoring a Weathered Deck
Before starting a deck restoration project, it's important to have a general idea of the current state of the deck. In some cases, deck restoration is not possible because the structure is too damaged. If this is the case, the deck will need to be demolished and rebuilt with new parts. Keep an eye out for significant rotting or areas with substantial damage that may be beyond simple repairs.
Additionally, it's necessary to take accurate measurements of the deck before purchasing a deck stripper, deck stain, or paint for the project. This will ensure that you have enough on hand to complete the work.
When to Restore a Weathered Deck
Any type of outdoor projects are best completed during the warmer months of the year. However, trying to restore a weathered deck in the middle of summer can be uncomfortable and may negatively affect the appearance of the stain or paint if the heat causes the sealant to dry in uneven patches.
It's recommended to plan the deck restoration project for spring or fall to take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the morning and evening. Additionally, deck materials may be more affordable during the offseason.
Equipment / Tools
- High-lift jack
- Caulking gun
- Pump sprayer
- Stiff bristle broom
- Pressure washer
- Power sander
- Paint roller
- Paint tray
- Concrete deck supports
- Replacement support beams
- Deck screws
- Deck nails
- Replacement brackets
- Replacement boards
- Flexible polyurethane caulk
- Waterproof resin glue
- Plastic sheeting
- Painter's tape
- Paint stripper
- Wood brightener
- Paint or stain
How to Restore a Weathered Deck
Inspect the Deck
The first step of the restoration project is to inspect the entire structure of the deck. This should include the horizontal and vertical supports, brackets, fasteners, railings, balustrades, stairs, and deck boards.
Look for any areas with significant rot or noticeable damage, like large cracks, badly rusted fasteners, sinking footers, warping, loose boards, or any major structural shifting or movement in the framing, joists, or footers.
As long as the majority of the deck structure is in good condition, the restoration project can proceed, but if most of the deck is in significant disrepair, then it may be better to demolish the structure and rebuild it with new materials.
Supplement Existing Deck Supports
The vertical deck supports may sink into the ground, causing the deck to shift over time. If this is the case, you can put in concrete deck supports that are specifically cast to fit typical wood beams. Use a high-lift jack to support the deck, then dig under the feet far enough to add the concrete supports, then remove the high-lift jack.
If the horizontal supports are sagging, you can bolster the supports by using the high-lift jack to level the structure, then installing an overlay beam to the front of the existing beam with a drill and deck screws.
Tighten or Replace Screws, Brackets, and Fasteners
Check all the screws, brackets, and fasteners. If the hardware is in relatively good condition, use a drill and hammer to tighten any screws and hammer down any loose nails. However, if any hardware is bent, warped, broken, or severely rusted, then you should remove the damaged hardware and replace it with new nails, screws, or brackets.
Replace Rotted or Damaged Boards
Boards or support beams that are significantly rotted, dried-out, or otherwise damaged should be removed and replaced with new boards or support beams. Do not attempt to simply sand and stain these boards as this will not fix the existing issues. Use a drill and hammer to detach any boards or beams that are beyond repair, then replace them with new deck boards or support beams.
Fix Minor Cracks with Polyurethane Caulk
If the boards or beams have minor cracks or splits, then you may be able to repair them, instead of replacing them. For relatively small cracks, you can typically patch them by injecting the cracks with a flexible polyurethane caulk. If the cracks or splits are more severe, consider injecting the boards with waterproof resin glue. Clamp the boards and allow the resin glue or polyurethane caulk to dry and cure overnight before continuing with the restoration project.
Prepare the Area
The following steps may cause damage to the surrounding lawn, foliage, or structures, to it's necessary to prepare the area before proceeding. Use painter's tape and plastic sheeting to cover anything below or around the deck that you don't want to get damaged.
Strip Previously Painted or Stained Decks
If the deck was previously painted or stained, then the old stain or paint will need to be removed during the deck restoration process. Research appropriate paint or stain stripping products to find a suitable option for your deck.
Fill a pump sprayer with the stripping solution, then gradually saturate the deck in sections measuring about 20 square feet, working your way around the entire deck. Don't forget to use the stripping solution on the railings and stairs, as well as the main surface of the deck.
Use a stiff-bristle broom or brush to work the stripper into the coated areas. Let the paint stripper stand for about 15 minutes or as directed by the product manufacturer, then rinse the deck thoroughly to remove any remaining paint, stain, or stripper.
Clean the Deck
Both previously stained decks and decks that were not previously stained, painted, or sealed should be cleaned with a pressure washer to remove any dirt, dust, or stuck on debris. To avoid damaging the wood, make sure to test the pressure washer at a lower setting first, before gradually increasing the power of the spray.
Sand the Deck
Stripping and cleaning can get rid of most of the surface sealant, as well as any stuck-on dirt and debris, but to get the best results, sand the deck. Use a power sander with 80-grit sandpaper to remove the top layer of material from the deck.
This process should cut through gray or faded wood, revealing the bright natural wood beneath. After sanding with 80-grit sandpaper, switch to 100-grit sandpaper to get a smooth finish. Use a chisel to cut off any splinters, then sand down the cut-off portion of the deck board to blunt the edge.
Rinse the deck with the power washer to remove any sawdust, dirt, or other debris, then allow the deck to dry for about 24 hours before sealing.
Screws and nails should be slightly set below the surface before sanding. The sandpaper could get damaged or the head of the fastener could get sanded off
Seal the Deck
At this point, you can apply a wood brightener to help restore the vibrance and luster of the wood. Wood brighteners can typically be applied with a paint roller or paintbrush, though it's important to follow the specific instructions provided by the manufacturer.
After the wood brightener has been applied and it has had time to dry, you can seal the deck with a paint or stain. Deck paint or stain products will generally take about 48 to 72 hours to fully dry and cure, so make sure to wait a few days before resuming normal use of the newly restored deck.
Deck Restoration Tips
Building, repairing, or restoring a deck structure can take a significant amount of time, especially if the DIYer is working alone or are inexperienced. If you don't have a lot of knowledge and experience with deck-building or repairs, it's a good idea to get a professional opinion on the current state of the deck to determine if the deck can be restored or if it should be demolished and rebuilt.
Regular inspections can help you stay on top of minor repairs, like small cracks, broken fasteners, or loose boards. At least once every two to three years, you should plan to clean, sand, and seal the deck to ensure that the wood remains protected from rain, sleet, snow, and UV radiation.
Additionally, DIYers should always wear personal protective equipment when working on home renovation or building projects. Make sure you have safety glasses, a mask, closed-toe shoes, safety gloves, long pants, hearing protection, and a long-sleeve shirt to stay safe while you work.