If your decking has cracks, looks dirty, or suffers from mildew, it's time to decide whether to refinish or replace it entirely. Signs of an unsafe deck are often less obvious but safety checks are critical when deciding to repair or replace. Also, if your deck was built before 2004, it's probably made of lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate. Regular refinishing helps to seal in the toxic arsenic that CCA decking contains. But if the finish is flaking or worn off in spots, we suggest hiring a pro who's equipped to safely remove the old finish, dust, and debris and then refinish it.
Weigh all the costs
You can save hundreds by replacing the decking yourself. Along with a circular saw, you'll need a corded or cordless drill. Don't skimp on support joists if you choose heavier composites or less-rigid plastics. For wood, solid stains typically yield longer-lasting results.
Note that the prices cited in our Ratings are just for the planks under foot. The cost of railings, stairs, and supporting structure isn't included. The prices also don't include labor costs, either to build a new deck or replace worn planking on an existing structure. The cost of labor can easily exceed the cost of the materials.
Be sure the style of the deck material complements the house design
The width of the decking, its color and finish, and the design of the railing become important design elements. A ranch, a raised ranch, or contemporary house style can work well with many deck designs. It's more challenging to make a deck work with older styles, such as Tudor, colonial, or 1920s bungalow. Many manufacturers of synthetic decking offer a variety of railings, such as provincial or Mission style, that can help the deck fit with the rest of the house.
Sidestep the usual goofs
Nails and screws are low cost, easy to handle, and suitable for nearly any material. But nails can pop loose over time, while screws are more permanent. Ceramic-coated screws come in several colors, which helps them to blend in.
To avoid splitting planks, drill pilot holes for nails, countersink screws in wood, and predrill screw holes into composite. Choose zinc-coated or other corrosion-resistant fasteners, and use the right fasteners for composites. Also consider hidden fasteners or systems that hide the attachment (see Features for more).
Before staining, pressure-wash or brush the old surface with a cleaning solution. If there is any remaining mold and mildew, remove it using a solution of 1 part bleach and 3 parts water. When staining, use as many coats as the maker recommends. And be sure it's at least 50 degrees F from the time stain is applied until it dries completely.
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