Deck Restoration

My neighbor's house was in serious need of a deck restoration so they asked me to help them out. I've been wanting to restore a deck, so I jumped on it and they loved the results.

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My neighbors deck has been in disrepair for sometime. I’m pretty sure it was built with the house about 30 years, and it shows. Some of the disrepair really starts to make sense as I get further into the demo. They also wanted to change a few things about the deck. They didn’t care for the built in benches, or how separate the upper section was from the lower section. So all that is going and won’t be replaced. Which I’m totally down with, because it means less work.

Getting the first deck board up was the hardest, without any good ways to get my hammer or bar to creep in. But once it was out, it went pretty quick. I’m not particularly large or strong, so one of my favorite demo tools is a long pry bar. It’s a lot of fun to just smash things, but it’s hard to keep that up all day. With a long bar I have lots of leverage and it doesn’t take much effort to pull things apart.

The framing seemed to be in pretty good shape, it needs some work, but doesn’t need to be replaced. Which is good because that saves a lot of time and materials, but also means there’s a LOT of nails that need to be pulled. I started with my long bar, but then realized my short bar would be a little more comfortable and fortunately it still gave plenty of leverage.

If I have a lot of nails to pull, I stay away from using my hammer. They’re handy in a pinch but require more strength and pulling. With the pry bar, gravity is on my side and with that position it seems like I can have more leverage, plus I can just lean a little bit and use my body weight instead of muscling each nail. I’m not that weak, but when it’s almost 100 degrees and there are 1000 nails to pull, every movement adds up.

To start leveling deck I used my car jack to raise the double joist that the other joists are tied too, then I added a joist hanger to hold it in position. Then I repeated that process on all of the joists. Many of the individual joists I was able to just raise by hand though and didn’t need the jack, but everything received joist hangers. The original nails weren’t galvanized, so as they corroded, it let everything sag and pull part.

With the framing sorted out and no longer literally falling apart as I bumped it, I could get on to the decking. I would throw up a fair amount of boards onto the deck and then get them roughly into place. The boards are just a touch short so I alternated having one against the house, and one flush with the end of the deck.

At the point, I didn’t worry about shooting nails into every joist, I’ll come back and down that later. I’m just getting enough to hold things together so I can keep moving. Some of the boards are warped, so I use my pry bar to pull them into position and then nail them in place.

For the boards flush with the the outside of the deck, I mark and cut them so they’ll end in the middle of a joist, so I scab in a short piece to fill the gap. In hindsight, I should’ve set those pieces so the end was in the middle of that joists and then flush cut them with the end of the deck at the end.

These boards were really wet, so I didn’t worry about spacing them out. I just put them right against each other, as they dry, there will be nice gaps for drainage. If you don’t believe that’ll happen, then don’t ruin those beliefs by watching what happens at the end of the video.

I did take care to make sure that I orientated any cupping on the boards so that water would run off the sides, and not settle in the cup and just sit on the deck.

After the decking was laid I came back and finished shooting the rest of the nails. And that’s really why I didn’t do it as I laid the boards, because I wanted to be able to put my nail gun in bump mode and go just go to town. It’s a lot of fun. A lot of people are switching to screws now because they’re less likely to allow the boards to pull up and get loose. I opted for nails, just make sure that they’re galvanized so they can hold up to the weather and ring shanked, that helps prevent them from pulling out. Twist shank also work, but I don’t think those are available for nails guns, and I wasn’t going to do this by hand.

With most of the decking down, it’s time to cut all those short pieces that are needed. There were enough that I did this in my shop with my miter saw and a stop. The shorts that go against the house needed to be very close to dimension so they fit in the space without a lot of gaps. But for the ones going at the end of the deck, I could leave a big long and then cut to fit after.

And now that ALL of the deck nails are in, I get to pay the price for my quick shooting fun earlier. Time to hit down any nails that didn’t all the way down.

And now I can add the steps ontop of the decking. They’re super simple construction, just 2x4’s spaced 16” on center and sized for 2 deck boards to fit with a 1” over hang. My neighbors said they wanted it to feel more open, so I recommended not putting the railing back between upper and lower deck, and just doing a giant step there so it felt more like one space. They loved the idea and it does feel a lot bigger than before.

On to the railing. I went ahead and kept the railing the same style that it was before. So I cut the rails to fit between the posts, and then pre-drilled some holes to toenail in screws to hold them in place.

And that’s when I realized I hadn’t replaced the main steps, so I go ahead and knock that out. Fortunately deck board sizes haven’t changed so I didn’t have to rip any pieces to fit.

Finally on to finishing touches, the top rail! Normally this style is down with a deck board for the cap, but it was originally 2x6s and that kinda flows well with the size of the rails so I went with it.

I also went with screws because there’s a good chance this will have kids pulling and hanging on it, and people pushing and leaning against it, and the screws will resist coming loose a lot better.

Everywhere possible, you’ll notice that I’m screwing a full length board in place first, then cutting to fit. To me this is a lot easier, faster, and gets better results than measuring and cutting. There’s no worry over bad measurements or time lost taking measurements because that step is skipped entirely.

And then the only kinda tricky party of this build was the rail cap for the stairs. I used my speed square to find the angle, about 34 degrees, then sent the baseplate on my circular to 34 degrees. It matched pretty well and several screws make sure it’s not going to come loose. Then I cut the bottom of it flush with the saw still set at the appropriate angle.

Deck boards are normally pretty wet when you buy them and no finish is going to stick well to that, so we let this deck dry for about 10 months and then I came back and painted it to match their trim. My airless sprayer made really quick work of it. I started by spraying all of the railing and posts, then cut in the edges very carefully, and then went back and forth over the field until it was done.

And that’s it. If you look carefully, you’ll also see that all the boards have pretty even gaps now for water drainage. Anyway, thanks for watching! I hope you learned something, are more confident or inspired to try this yourself, or were at least entertained. Don’t forget to check out Patreon if you’re interested in winning the DeWalt set. Until next time, make time to make something.