How to Properly Resurface an Old Deck


Tired of your old, rundown deck? Before you spend big on a brand new one, consider whether your deck can simply be resurfaced – that is, use the existing frame and install new deck boards. Resurfacing an aging deck can transform the landscape, curb appeal, and functionality of a home, and is often a cost-effective home improvement project. Resurfacing an existing deck can cost as little as 1/3 of the cost of total replacement. Resurfacing can be done by a professional carpenter but is also very doable by the intermediate DIYer. Just be sure to thoroughly inspect the framing of the deck before you begin, so you can address any problem areas right up front.    

Here are some of the most common situations that professional deck installers encounter when resurfacing older decks, and some tips on how to address them.

Uneven and/or wobbly joists – Changing seasons, along with its moisture and temperature fluctuations, can cause wood to swell, shrink and shift over time. When combined with the installation of low-quality or inappropriate fasteners, corrosion can cause pressure treated lumber to separate, resulting in an unstable surface.

Typically, the fix includes reinforcing the joist, installing shims, and/or removing corroded fasteners and replacing them with strong, durable deck screws. A stable deck begins with a solid foundation. That, and an appropriate framing system that’s able to support not only itself, but also everything a homeowner plans to install on top of it. 

Rotted joists – Even treated lumber can be susceptible to damage from moisture. Since the preservatives that repel water away from treated lumber are applied to the exterior of the boards, every cut, chip, nail or screw penetration has the potential to invite moisture into the wood. Over time, trapped moisture will slowly but surely cause wood to deteriorate. After the original deck boards have been removed from the joists, carefully inspect each one for “soft spots” – places where water has seeped into the wood. Before replacing the decking, consider adding a layer of joist tape to help protect joists from moisture runoff.

Another joist protection option is to install composite decking with the Step-Clip hidden-fastening system. Step-Clip offers the dual benefit of moisture repellency and speedier installation. Offered exclusively from DuraLife®, the Step-Clip™ hidden fastener system installs quickly and easily along the entire length of the framing joists. Each of the 1-5/8-inch wide (x 23” long) polypropylene interlocking strips covers the width of joist, shielding it from water damage.

Incorrect ledger board installation – Contrary to what you may think, the reason that most decks collapse is not from too much weight, but rather from incorrectly fastening the deck’s ledger board to the house. Unfortunately, a perfectly “good looking” deck is still prone to prematurely failing if the proper methods and materials are not used to create a permanent connection to the frame of the house.

In addition to the hardware used for the actual attachment, the ledger board must also be flashed correctly to allow any water to drain down and out from under the finished wall assembly. Removing the first few courses of decking should reveal whether or not an existing deck has been properly attached (and flashed) to the house. One tell-tale sign of a potential problem will be the absence of any lag screw heads. If the only type of fastener you see going through the deck’s ledger board and into the house is a simple screw or nail head, it’s definitely worth taking a closer look. Special ledger screws are now also available that are longer, stronger and are designed with built-in washers for easier installation. Lastly, secure connections can also be made with through bolts, although this will require being able to access the threaded end of the bolt from inside the house.

Oversized deck joist spacing – Another symptom of a low-cost deck construction method is revealed when a homeowner looks into resurfacing or upgrading their existing deck. While the current building code only requires decks to be supported with (2”x 10”) pressure treated pine joists spaced 24” apart, there is no question that a deck framed with 2”x10”s that are 16” apart simply feels more stable underfoot. That’s because it is. Unfortunately, it also costs more, and because of that reason, some deck builders will avoid suggesting it to their prospects.

So, when it comes time to resurfacing or replacing an existing deck with composite decking, keep in mind that some additional framing may be necessary. The good news for homeowners is that unlike most composites, DuraLife's hardwood composite decking products can be installed between 20”O.C. (on-center) at 90° to 16” O.C. at 45°. 

Adding a hot tub – When a homeowner decides to upgrade an existing deck, they often have a specific purpose already in mind. Often, that purpose is to add a hot tub.  While some of the new, lighter weight materials used to manufacture hot tubs have helped to reduce the weight, the fact remains that installing one on a deck will require additional strength and support to be built into the existing framing system. Aside from weight, there are a few other hot tub specific issues that homeowners should consider when replacing or resurfacing an existing deck. First, adding a hot tub will introduce a lot more moisture to the surrounding area, in particular the decking located directly underneath the tub.

Rather than struggling to maintain a clean, mildew-free appearance, many homeowners will opt to upgrade to a composite decking material. Made from recycled hardwood fibers and polypropylene plastic, DuraLife composite decking is mold and mildew resistant, and provides homeowners with a 25-year limited warranty against stains and fading.

Along with its superior resistance to mold and mildew growth, another advantage of composite decking over traditional lumber is that it feels more comfortable underfoot – even in bare feet. It’s machined edges won’t splinter or crack like traditional decking, and the amazing palate of colors and patterns to choose from are enough to please even the most demanding, design-conscious client. Long lasting slip resistance that’s built into the variegated, wood-like texture of the composite material is another reason why many homeowners are choosing to make the switch from pressure-treated (PT) lumber to a high-quality composite.

Get samples of DuraLife capped composite decking and have them shipped directly to your door. Order your samples now! 

This article is made possible by DuraLife.DuraLife’s unique polypropylene and hardwood composite decking materials simply outperform all other wood and composite decking products.More solid and safe under foot, DuraLife decking is backed by a 25-year warranty. It is stain and fade resistant, mold and mildew resistant, and is available in the colors and deck railing options you want. Get Samples, try our Composite Deck Visualizer, or contact DuraLife now to learn more.