Is it Time for Your Deck to Retire?

From on September 30, 2008 in Decks and Patios

Old Deck

It’s that time of year to do some serious outdoor reconstruction and preparation for the winter to come. Your deck has been serving its purpose for some time now and although summer is about over, there is still plenty of good weather to take a good hard look at your deck’s condition. What are some of the warning signs that it may be time to tear it down and reconstruct?

  • Aged and outdated. The timber is old and the design is poor. This summer was perfect for more outdoor activities and a larger deck with room for a Jacuzzi, barbeque, and patio set would have been perfect. Take out the old and bring in the new; get ready for next year’s fun.
  • Mold and mildew build up. Mold that appears at ground level or under the deck is a sign of too much moisture. Signs of mold and mildew are deterioration, graying boards, cracking, and splintering. Moisture is never a good thing for a wood deck. Was it built too close to the ground or without enough ventilation under the deck? Check with a professional to access the extent of the damage. If wood rot has taken over, the deck may need removing or reconstruction.
  • Wood rot/dry rot. Both are results of moisture and fungus—nasty stuff. The fungus feeds on the moisture then breaks down the wood, causing decomposing. Both have discoloration as beginning signs. There are two main types of wood rot. One produces brown-colored spots and breaks off in cubes, thus called “cube rot.” The other type leaves a white or yellow color on the wood and gives it a spongy, stringy feeling; this is “dry rot.” Dry rot is described as very old wood that has long since rotted and dried out. Nevertheless, moisture was the culprit in the beginning. This is serious damage; see an expert before the deck retires itself.
  • Rot caused by fungus. Wood exposed to moisture long enough allows fungus to grow and feed on the wood. The fungus actually causes the wood’s destruction. Microorganisms remove the cellulose from the timber, leaving it brittle and vulnerable to further damage. Fungus requires heat, moisture, dirt, and a dark place to grow, such as the under side, along the structural posts, and up against foundations and walls. If not caught immediately, it will spread like a cancer and the deck will have to be retired. Seek help from a professional as soon as possible.
  • Subterranean termites and carpenter ants. Subterranean termites and carpenter ants usually invade wood from the soil along the foundation, entering wood that has been directly exposed to the ground. Carpenter ants chew wood to create nest sites, but do not eat the wood as do termites. Carpenter ants excavate the wood with their strong jaws to create galleries for nests. They’re large in size and a nuisance because of their abundance once established. The carpenter ant chews the wood across the grain, while termites only damage wood with the grain. Termites line their galleries with mud, while the ant galleries are smooth, clean, and devoid of mud and other debris. Breaking off a portion of rotten wood may reveal the culprit by these signs. Again, consult an expert; it may be further than just the deck.

Some of these warning signs may be caught in time to save your deck, but they often go undetected until the deck sags, a portion breaks, or you just wanted a face lift and discover there is no face to lift. If it is time to retire your old deck and reconstruct a new one, be sure to use the best products and the longest lasting ones. Consult a contractor for further guidance.

New members of CalFinder, CA Construction, recently added several new photos of some great decks. Have a look!