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Can My Outdoor Deck Be Salvaged?

We may not all be able to live in mega-mansions with butlers and private chefs, but an outdoor deck is something realistic. It gives us the simple pleasure of cooking, entertaining, and relaxing in the open air. We make better use of our yards and outdoor areas when we have an intermediate area to use. The outdoor deck improves curb appeal and beautifies the home. That’s why it’s been one of the most popular home additions for decades.

But since outdoor decks have been so popular for so long, a certain problem has crept up on many homeowners: That deck is starting to look shabby. Maybe it hasn’t been properly maintained, or maybe it’s just been around too long. Take a stroll through the average neighborhood and you’ll probably see what we’re talking about. The surfaces and handrails are beginning to fade and warp. In some cases, you’re not even sure if the deck is safe to use anymore.

Wooden deck and patio of family home at night.

In short, many homeowners find themselves asking one important question: Can my deck be salvaged? Is my only option to tear it down and start over, or do I have other options? Finding answers to these questions could result in serious expenses or big savings, depending on whether you find the correct information.

If your deck is under ten years old and appears to be structurally sound, you may be able to revive its appearance simply by subjecting it to a deck refinishing process. When done professionally, this process should include the following steps:

  • Cleaning all parts of the deck with a low-pressure solution
  • Tearing out and replacing boards that are rotted or warped
  • Checking and tightening any loose connectors or nails throughout the structure
  • Careful sanding down of any problem areas
  • Multiple coats of high-quality professional-grade coating

But in many cases, the deck is too far gone to consider refinishing as a viable solution. That’s when deck resurfacing enters the conversation. This is a more involved process. Essentially, the underlying structure of the deck is left in place, while all of the surfaces and handrails are completely removed and replaced with fresh material. The results can be stunning, effectively giving you a brand new deck at a fraction of the cost. But in order for deck resurfacing to be viable, the underlying structure must be sound.

In all honesty, most homeowners are not going to be able to determine whether resurfacing is an option. It’s certainly possible to conduct your own inspection of the deck, keeping an eye out for wobbly support beams and loose connections between pieces. Rotting or warped boards beneath the surface of the deck are another telltale sign that your deck is beyond salvaging.

But seeking a professional assessment, for most homeowners, is the only way to be certain. Having inspected thousands of decks, professionals will be able to make an accurate judgment call on whether your deck can be resurfaced or refinished—or whether a complete teardown is the only option.

If resurfacing or refinishing is an option, it will be good news. National statistics show very strong levels of homeowner satisfaction with resurfacing and refinishing projects, and the cost is usually a fraction of what it costs to design and build a brand new deck.

Many homeowners are skeptical of deck companies who offer assessments, and for good reason. Some companies will give partial or skewed information in order to secure a contract—but the most qualified and reputable deck specialists (those with quality feedback from past customers) will give you the straight story on your ailing deck, and leave the decision entirely in your hands.