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Repairing a deck


My deck needs repairing; the boards on top where you walk across have started to rot through in some places.  I can see that the boards underneath are still in good condition, and the railing can be salvaged, so my intention is just to pull up all the boards on top and replace them with new.  However, I have no idea how to go about this, what materials I need, etc.  My local home depot store doesn't offer any workshops on the subject, all the books/websites I read about this look like Greek to me, and on top of that, I'm noticing that when you do a search on "deck repair" or "building a deck" or read books on the subject, they literally talk about either building a deck from scratch (which I don't need to do) or just how to do general maintenance on deck that's in otherwise fine condition, and don't really get into what I need to do.  I did get an estimate from a local company already but I'm hoping to save money by doing it myself.  Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions, or maybe know of some resources I'm overlooking, where I could get a better understanding of how to go about this, a materials list, etc?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated. :)  Thank you SO much! :)

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Posted 2011-09-08T23:57:35+0000  by carolina_blue29 carolina_blue29

Well... I guess I'll start this off for you and maybe some others will chime in if you still have questions.


This is assuming you've checked all the structural parts of the deck: ledger connection to the house, support posts and beams, existing joists, etc. If all those are sound then proceed. If not, you may want to consider scrapping it all and starting over. Depending on your municipality, you may need to talk to the building department about permits. Probably not, but doesn't hurt to check.


The first thing you can do, head to your local THD with the dimensions of your deck one day during a M-F week. Stop by the Pro Desk. They can help you figure out how much and what size lumber you'll need for your deck. They will also be able to give you an estimate on the amount of deck screws (better option) or nails you'll need. Deck screws and nails are usually sold by the pound. When you talk to them, have the dimensions of your deck and the spacing of your joists. All of this is important to figuring out how much new lumber you'll need.



You can also ask them any questions you may have about the project, they'll be happy to assist you.


Now for how to accomplish your task. Go back to your deck building books. Start with the chapter on installing the deck boards. When you replace your deck boards, it is essentially the same operation as when installing them new.


If your boards are nailed on, you'll need a nail puller and/or flat bar, similar to a Stanley Wonder Bar. If the boards are screwed on, you'll want a drill and screwdriver bit for the type of screws you have. The bit could be a Phillips, Torx, Square, etc. Different manufacturers use their preference, all in the attempt to prevent cam out and striping. Phillips head screws are prone to cam out because they are designed to do just that. Cam out is what happens when the bit slips out of the screw. By camming out, a Phillips head screw is more difficult to overtighten. But with some screws and too high a speed of your drill, cam out can lead to striping the screw. The most common size of Phillips screw used is a #2. For Torx, its probably a #25 or 30. Just load the appropriate bit in your drill, set it to reverse and take your screws out. You'll do two to three rows of boards.


A good hammer, some knee pads, some saw horses, speed square and a circular saw. You may also need a jigsaw if you have to notch around guard rail posts. Some of these tools will do double duty for you. For instance, the flat bar is used to help you remove boards, but it can also be used to help pry a new board that's not perfectly straight into proper position. The speed square will help you draw straight cut lines at nice 90 degree angles. It can also be used as a saw guide to help you cut those nice straight lines with your circular saw.


Assuming you use screws, the manufacturer of your screws will also sell bits to use with those screws. While generally speaking, bit are interchangeable, you'll find far less problems if you use a Deckmate bit with a Deckmate screw.


Next take some of your new boards and lay them out. Measure, mark your board, measure again to be sure you got it right the first time, then cut it. Save the piece you cut off if it's more than 3ft. You may need some of those scraps depending on how you lay out your boards. The fewer the seams the better. You also want to avoid a pattern of seams, so think about cutting boards at different lengths. Give some thought to this before you start so you don't end up with a board that's spanning less than 3ft. You will also need to figure out if you're board edges are going to be flush with the rim joist or over hang an inch or so. This needs to be decided up front as it may have some bearing on what size boards you'll need to by.


Before you start screwing that board in, make sure to drill some pilot holes wherever you're going to put screws. Pilot holes make it easier for the screw to go in and help prevent splitting the deck board when you're driving a screw near an edge. Common sizes for deck screws are #8 and #9 and the pilot hole size would be 5/64" for your typical pressure treated pine board.


Now get busy screwing in those boards. It will help tremendously to have a dozen or so boards laid out flat on your existing deck at one time, so that as you move from board to board, you can just slide it into place to measure, cut and screw.


These are some the basics, I'm sure others will add to this. As I mentioned at the beginning, read through the chapters on installing new deck boards a couple of times. Do this before you go talk to the Pro Desk associates so you'll have a better idea of what questions to ask, as well as, being more in tune to some of the words and phrases you may hear.

Best Answer

Posted 2011-09-09T21:37:04+0000  by Paul


I think it's best to always start with the finish product and work back to what you will need for materials, tools etc. And make a separate list of each category. You may find that you already have some of the tools and if you do you would like to make sure that they are in safe working order i.e proper blades, bits.

Measure the square footage of the deckboards that you would like to replace, then go to a Home Depot and ask to see specifically  what they have to offer for deckboards. That way you are speaking their language and they can help you more efficiently. Once you've pick out the finish product (the new decking) you can proceed with confidence. Then they (Home Depot) can guide you as to how much materials you will need, what kind of fasteners. tools etc.. Make list, plan it on paper first, no matter how small the project.

Posted 2011-09-09T21:47:33+0000  by jonsog

Hello Carolina_blue29,


Welcome to the community.


First let me tell you that you can save a lot of money doing this project yourself. It’s really not that hard of a DIY project as long as you’re not afraid of using a few tools and willing to put in a weekend of manual labor.


Well let me add my two cents in along with the great information from our other community members.


First you will have to remove the old boards. In order to do this you will have to figure out if they are held down with screws or nails. If you have screws then simply unscrew them and remove it. If they are held down with nails you will have to use a nail puller to get them out. The easiest way is to push the nail puller under the head of the nail and then put a piece of a 2 x 4 under it before you start to pry it up. This will give you a lot more leverage to pull the nail up and out.

                                nail puller.jpg       prybar.jpg


Once you get all of the boards off I would highly suggest doing a very close inspection of all of the joists and posts. This is the time to repair or replace any that are damaged. Now you will need to choose what kind of materials you are going to use. Here is a little information for you on decking and fasteners.


Decking material.


 The most popular are redwood, cedar, or composite. Over the past couple of years composite decking has become really popular. I really like the look and the easy maintenance of composite decking. It comes in many different colors and you can even get different textures. Some of them look like real wood and even weather like it too.

                Redwood redwood.jpgCedar  cedar wood.JPG

Trex Decking trex decking.JPGtrex colors.JPG




You can use nails, screws, or hidden fasteners. I would suggest screws over nails. They not only make repairs a lot easier but they also hold the boards down better and normally weather better then nails. Make sure that you get the correct fastener for the material that you’re using. Not all screws are made the same. For wood I would use Deck Mate screws and for composite I would use composite deck screws. They keep the material from mushrooming up around the screw head.

              nail spiral-shank.jpg  deckmate screw.jpg   composite deck screw.jpg   

But if it were my deck I would use hidden fasteners. Most people think they are only for composite decking but I beg to differ. As long as you have the ability to make the groove on the edge of the board then you can use them. There are a few different kinds so just make sure to get the right one for whatever surface you choose. Here are a few examples.

  hidden deck fastener.jpgtrex hidden fastener.jpgtrex fastener.JPG


Now it’s time to install your new deck surface. I normally start at the most visible edge and work in from there. Make sure that you leave a ¼” gap in between every board. This will allow for expansion and contraction as the weather changes. This is true for all materials. If the boards don’t go the entire width of the deck make sure and offset the joints on each course. If you’re using nails or screws than I would use 2 at every joist. With hidden fasteners there will only be 1 at each joist.


If you used wood make sure that you treat it with a good waterproofer before the rain hits. I’ve used products by Behr and Thompson’s and they both work well. They are available in clear, Simi-transparent or solid colors. This is almost as crucial as the construction of the deck. The better you take care of your deck the longer it will last.  

                                           waterproofer behr.jpg                  waterproofer thompsons.jpg


That should get your deck looking brand new and ready for you to sit back and enjoy all of your hard work.




I also found a few different links that will show you how to repair and/or replace your deck boards. They are a good source to make you feel a little more at ease and give you the confidence to get started. I’m a firm believer that a picture or video is worth a thousand words. So here are the links.


  1. Repairing Decking and Joists. (Project Guide)
  2. Repairing your Deck. (Video)
  3. Installing new boards. (Video)

Let me know if you have any other questions. I would love to help.

Posted 2011-09-09T22:35:59+0000  by Christine_HD_OC
Thank you SO much for your replies, you have all been SO helpful! I wish I could accept all 3 of your replies as the solution but I have a feeling the website will only let me pick one reply as the solution. :) I am definitely going to stop by the Pro Desk this week and talk to the guys there, and check out the links you sent me (thanks especially for that! I was having a hard time finding decent websites on the subject). I'm starting to get more confidence about this project the more I think about it, and from reading everyone's replies. Maybe I will have a nice, repaired deck by the end of the month. :) Thank you again so much for all your help!
Posted 2011-09-12T00:26:42+0000  by carolina_blue29
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