LESLIE: Dan in Arkansas needs some help tackling a deck project. What can we help you with?
DAN: We have just recently purchased a home. It has a very expansive wood deck; approximately it’s 15x93, which would be 1,400...
LESLIE: That’s huge.
TOM: That’s an aircraft carrier.
DAN: Yes, yes. You have to pack a lunch to get to one end. (Tom and Leslie chuckle) The wood is unknown but I’m guessing it’s going to be pine or treated pine.
DAN: The deck has been painted with probably a latex exterior or latex stain and it’s flaking off very badly. We’re tracking it into the house; we’re afraid about the dogs breathing it. Some contractors suggested power washing; others said that would break up the surface of the wood. And so there we are. Can’t afford to replace the decking, we don’t think, at 1,400 square foot. If we remove the deck, the first step is 15 feet to the ground. (Leslie chuckles)
LESLIE: Yeah. Well …
TOM: Well, I’ve got to tell you it’s an enormous project to get the old paint off. They’re correct in saying that pressure washing could potentially damage the deck. Pressure washing really only should be used for rinsing. I mean the tool is fine but if you make it too strong, what happens is you wear out the soft summer growth which is the thick part of the ring of the tree.
DAN: (overlapping voices) Right.
TOM: You sort of groove that out and it definitely takes some life out of the deck. Probably the only way you’re going to be able to get this off is a chemical stripper and even that by itself is a big job with 1,400 square feet.
LESLIE: Yeah, and you’re going to have to work in sections because you have to apply it as per manufacturer directions; you know, with a roller or with sort of like a mop applicator and then you let it sit on that section for 10 minutes or so before it dries but you want it to sort of sit there and saturate and do its job of breaking up the paint. And then you would lightly pressure wash it away; you know, get rid of the product and get rid of the paint that comes off with it. You wouldn’t want to just pressure wash because, as Tom said, it would just be detrimental to the health of the lumber.
But it’s going to be a big undertaking but you will be able to get it down to raw wood; which, at that point, you could then apply, depending on the condition of the lumber – you know, is it checking; is it splintery; does it look OK. You know, depending on if it looks great, then you can go with a semi-transparent. If it looks a little worse for the wear or you had a hard time getting off a lot of the paint in some areas where it just really stuck, you might have to go with a solid stain, which is different from a paint because it still sort of saturates the wood itself so you can see some of the grain but you get that pigmentation. And you can go with a natural tone in a solid color.
TOM: You know, another option here, Dan, is – and I know you say you don’t have a lot of money to spend on this – you don’t necessarily have to replace the entire deck. You can just do a deck makeover by pulling off the decking boards themselves and replacing them with a composite product like Fiberon. That is sort of the half-price way of getting a brand new deck. Because the structure is fine, you won’t have to deal with that. And another thing that you could think about doing is take a look at the underside of the deck and if you’ve got some bad boards or maybe they’re not painted on the bottom, you could pull them up and flip them over.
DAN: OK, well thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Hope we gave you some options. Appreciate the call.