Give Your Deck a Makeover
LESLIE: Jay in Virginia finds The Money Pit on WJFK and we’re talking about decks. How can we help you?
JAY: Hi. I had a question about decks. My wife and I – our back deck is starting to go and we’re thinking – we’ve had structural engineers look at it. They said the deck itself, structurally it’s fine; it’s very solid. But it’s just the deck board.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) It’s just the decking?
TOM: Yeah, the deck surfaces themselves? Well, you can do sort of a deck makeover by removing just the deck surface boards and replacing them with a composite.
JAY: That’s what I was wondering about. Someone was telling me that – I’ve heard good and bad; that some of the composites are good and then some – I’ve heard some words of like they crack or something. What’s the story on those?
TOM: No, I never heard them crack. Usually the complaint on composites is …
LESLIE: That they get really hot.
TOM: … they get – sometimes they say they get hot.
TOM: But actually I did learn recently that that’s not completely true because there’s been, actually, temperature tests of surfaces of composites versus wood and they actually do get to be the same temperature.
LESLIE: Yeah, but in the same line, wood decks get hot.
LESLIE: So if you’re going to say a decking surface gets hot, they all get hot.
TOM: It’s all going to get hot, right.
The other common complaint about composites is that you get telegraphing; where you put the deck boards down – they’re not quite as stiff as regular deck boards; as wood deck boards. So if the floor joists are a little bit uneven, they’ll sort of telegraph; like go up and down and be a bit wavy at the surface.
And the other – and the last complaint we hear about composite decks is that you get sort of a mildew growth on them that needs to be cleaned. All that is true. But you know, all these materials are going to need some level of maintenance.
TOM: I don’t consider cleaning, you know, the mildew that builds up on a composite deck …
LESLIE: I mean that’s a level of maintenance you’d be doing with a wood deck as well.
TOM: Yeah, and …
TOM: And you know, the good news is that composite decks last like forever. I mean they’re incredibly durable.
LESLIE: And they’re looking more and more natural. We’re finding ones with a more pronounced wood grain, with differentials in colors that sort of make them look more realistic. The only thing for you to decide is whether you like the look of a composite and what that offers to you or do you love the look of natural wood. With natural wood, you’re getting the trade-up of you’ve got to give it time to cure before you finish it, regardless of the type of wood that you use; even with pressure-treated. And then, every few years there’s going to be some upkeep.
JAY: Yeah, but with a traditional wood every few years, besides cleaning it, we’re resealing it. You don’t have to …
LESLIE: Oh, exactly.
TOM: Right, exactly. I think that you’re in need of a deck makeover. I think it’s a great project. You know, not difficult to do; not structural since you’re not changing any of the structural parts of it. And choose a good composite. You can match it up with some composite rails and I think you’ll be enjoying your deck for a long time.
JAY: And they cut just like traditional wood, correct?
LESLIE: They do.
TOM: Just like wood. Cut, route. Yep. Just like regular wood.
LESLIE: They’re heavy, though. (chuckling)
JAY: They’re heavy? (chuckling)
TOM: Yeah, Jay, the only thing you might want to look into is when you actually reattach the composite boards to the joist there are special composite deck screws that prevent mushrooming. In other words, when you drive the screw in it doesn’t sort of swell. It has a little bit of an edge underneath the screw head that cuts its way in. And they go in nice and flat.
LESLIE: So it countersinks itself, yeah.
TOM: Yep, exactly. OK, Jay?
JAY: Thank you very much. It’s the information I was looking for. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks again for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.