Azek Decknology Blog

Decking Damage: When to Replace Your Deck

When Should Decking Be Replaced?

If your deck is looking a little worn lately despite all your efforts to maintain it, then it might be time you considered either repairing or replacing it. Of course, these are two drastically different projects, so before you choose one over the other, it helps to have an understanding of when you really should replace your deck, over simply repairing it.

There are essentially two types of damage that can occur to a deck – local damage and structural damage. This guide will help you learn more about each so you can make the best decision about your deck repair or replacement.    

What Is Local Damage?

Local damage is damage that is easy to see and relatively easy to repair. This type of damage usually occurs to the surface of the decking. An example would be deck boards that have started to swell or rot, or boards that have become so weather-beaten that they are starting to warp, curl, and splinter.

In this type of situation, the deck boards will be damp, discolored, and soft (or dry, curled, and cracking) and therefore, the affected boards should be replaced. The entire deck structure does not need to be replaced; the deck surface just needs to be re-planked.

As long as the structural integrity of the deck is in good shape you can replace your decking using more modern materials. For instance, you can remove your old worn decking and install capped polymer boards for a more durable and longer-lasting, low maintenance deck.

What Is Structural Damage?

Structural damage is damage that has occurred to the deck’s physical support structure. This type of damage is often caused by water damage, general rot, and termites and other wood-penetrating insects. Once wood-drilling pests get inside the wood, the channels they create allow water to seep inside the wood, causing the deck frame to weaken and sag.

The soggy wood then attracts even more insects, and the deck degenerates even quicker. In such cases, the deck is at the end of its life span and it should be replaced as soon as possible before it becomes a safety hazard.

The biggest problem with structural damage is that it can sometimes remain hidden until it is too late. Signs to watch out for include:

  • Loose or weak railing posts
  • Nails or screws that no longer remain secured to frame members
  • Signs of rot around the deck frame’s outer edges
  • Deck surface feels spongy or has “soft spots” when walking on it
  • The deck is sitting on rotting posts
  • The ledger boards are loose
  • No ledger flashing to keep water out

In most cases of structural damage, a deck will need to be replaced because there is just too much damage to warrant a repair.

The Age of Your Deck

One of the most common reasons for replacing a deck, besides structural damage, often comes down to the age of the deck. Many states have very strict building codes that dictate everything from how high above grade level a deck needs to be, to the required width between balusters.

For many homeowners, a deck that is older than current building code regulations is cause for replacement. This is especially the case in situations where a permit is required for the project.

Four Reasons to Replank a Deck Over Repairing It

If your deck structure is sound, then there are several reasons why replanking it with capped polymer decking makes better sense than repairing a portion of the decking with like-material planks. These include:

Faster Installation: Capped polymer decking is just as easy to install, if not easier, than traditional wood planking. The joist members of the framing must be confirmed to be level and free of obstructions such as fasteners prior to replanking. If the joists are uneven; the new deck planks will follow the contour of the underlying frame structure resulting in an uneven deck surface.

Cost Effective: Capped polymer decking lasts longer than any other decking material, and it is usually backed by warranties of 30 years or longer. This greatly reduces the deck’s lifetime cost of ownership.

Minimal Maintenance: Capped polymer decking requires zero painting, staining, or sealing.  This is a once-and-done installation that allows you to spend more time enjoying your deck, instead of working on it.

Improves Overall Property Value: A deck that has polymer decking adds more value to a home because it retains its attractive finish for years. Homebuyers are also more attracted to it due to its low maintenance, high durability, and long-lasting benefits.