When it comes to maintaining the appearance of your deck, decorating essentials may first come to mind. Beautiful patios are an ideal to aspire toward, but they may hide some disturbing facts that affect safety. This is why it’s so important to inspect your deck regularly. Common deck repairs include replacing loose rails or broken floorboards, removing rusted nails, and retightening screws.

Need help deciding if you should call a deck repair contractor? Check out this helpful list of six signs that repairing a deck should be on your to-do list this year.

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Carved-rotting-deck-post6 Warning Signs of Deck Deterioration

1. The wood support posts and beams begin to rot.

Wood rot is never a good sign, no matter what part of the house it affects. If it’s left unchecked, rot can cause enough damage to impact the structural integrity of your home.

Current building code regulations stipulate that contractors must build decks on concrete footings, but if your deck is older, its support posts may rest directly on the ground. Soil is rarely completely dry, and raw wood—including some pressure-treated varieties—will absorb any moisture in the ground. Moisture rots wood over time, so take a close look at your deck’s posts every few months.

2. Footings are heaving or dropping.

Concrete footings certainly improve the long-term structural integrity of your deck, but under some circumstances, they may not be perfect. If the original deck footings were poured on soil that has either shifted significantly over time or that was unstable to begin with, the concrete may crack or drop.

Years of cold weather and freeze/thaw cycles can also take their toll on concrete deck footings. This is especially the case in colder climates, where the freezing and thawing can cause the concrete to heave and drop if the footings weren’t poured deep enough.

3. You notice erosion around the posts.

Both wooden and concrete deck footings are susceptible to erosion. Soil erosion occurs when rainwater and snowmelt wash away the soil supporting the deck posts and footings. When the lower level of the post becomes exposed, the deck may become destabilized.

Drainage issues around your property can pop up seemingly out of nowhere. But the reality is that the slope of your yard will change naturally over the years, and small landscaping changes, such as adding or removing planting beds, can hasten those changes.

If you notice water pooling in your yard or a small river running underneath your deck after a storm, call a drainage system specialist and a deck contractor to help repair any damage (and prevent problems in the future).

4. Deck boards crack or splinter.

A cracked or splintered deck board here and there usually isn’t an immediate cause for concern—a deck repair contractor can replace a board or two without much trouble. But if every board is showing signs of significant deterioration, it’s probably time for a brand-new deck.

Wood doesn’t last forever. Regular staining, painting, and sealing go a long way toward extending the lifespan of a wood deck, but the elements eventually take their toll.

5. The rails loosen or otherwise deteriorate.

A loose deck railing is a serious safety hazard. It’s unlikely to cause your deck to collapse altogether, but a loose railing is an undeniable sign that the deck needs attention as soon as possible.

Keep a close eye on your deck’s railings, especially in the spots below any roof overhangs or where your friends and family members tend to hang out. If you catch railing problems early on, your deck contractor will most likely be able to repair them. Once the deterioration spreads and impacts the deck’s structural integrity, you’ll need a complete replacement.

6. The deck simply hasn’t been maintained.

Home maintenance never ends, and it doesn’t take long for the list of tasks to multiply and get out of hand. Decks that aren’t maintained consistently won’t last long.

If you’ve purchased a home with a questionable deck, don’t take a wait-and-see approach. A reputable deck contractor can inspect the structure and tell you whether or not the deck is safe. Your deck may need only a few straightforward repairs, or it might be quite old and not built to current safety codes. Either way, it’s best to know for sure what you’re dealing with—and whether or not you’ll need a new deck.

Carpenter-building-a-wood-deckFinding Reputable Deck Repair Contractors

When it comes to verifying your deck’s safety and structural integrity, cutting corners isn’t a good idea. Deck collapses can be deadly, and wood can deteriorate more quickly than you might think.

Talk to and request estimates from several deck contractors to ensure that you’re making the best hiring choice possible. Be wary of a contractor who is reluctant to furnish a reference list or proof of insurance coverage or who gives you a bid that is wildly different from the others you received.

Also be sure to ask about cleanup. Deck replacement and repair work can create a lot of debris, most of which can’t be reused or repurposed. Every contractor you talk to should include cleanup costs on their estimate so that you can make an apples-to-apples comparison of the bids.

Once your deck has been repaired and is safe to use, work with your deck contractor to plan a regular maintenance schedule.

Contractor-sanding-deck-boards3 Quick Tips for Deck Maintenance

Rebuilding or repairing a deck can be costly, so stay on top of regular maintenance tasks to ensure that you don’t have to arrange for major construction more than once.

The ideal maintenance schedule for your deck will depend largely on the materials you choose (composite decking versus tropical hardwood, for example) as well as how much you use your outdoor space. Take a look at our tips below, and consult your deck contractor for more information.

1. Keep the wood protected.

Bare wood, even if it’s pressure treated, needs to be stained or painted and sealed to protect it against the elements. Depending on how much you use your deck, this process will likely need to be repeated every couple of years.

2. Move plants and furniture periodically.

Outdoor planters, rugs, and furniture can trap moisture and cause the deck to deteriorate prematurely. Move these types of items around the deck from time to time to ensure that the wood beneath them doesn’t begin to rot or attract insects.

3. Address spills and stains promptly.

You may not worry as much about stains on your deck as you do on your carpet, but do try to wipe up food and drink spills as thoroughly as you can. Food residue can attract wood-loving insects, and over time, those spills can make your deck look a little worse for the wear.

Beyond keeping a roll of paper towels handy for outdoor gatherings, have your deck professionally pressure washed every year and before any staining or sealing services.

Modern-home-with-a-wood-deckThe Bottom Line

A deck can be a fantastic extension of your home, perfect for relaxing and getting together with friends and family, but only if it’s in good shape. Time, weather, and lack of regular maintenance can take their toll on the structure, so it’s important to inspect your deck regularly for signs of deterioration.

Turn to an experienced, reputable deck contractor for advice on whether your deck needs to be repaired or replaced and the best ways to keep it in great shape.