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Deck Resurfacing and Deck Refinishing: What’s the Difference?

Is your deck in need of some TLC?

It’s not easy to keep your deck in tip-top shape all the time, especially as the seasons pass. Perhaps the color has faded, or the floorboards are discolored. The wood might have cracks or splinters—but how exactly should you go about solving these problems?

Two common ways to bring your deck back to life are deck resurfacing and deck refinishing. Deck resurfacing is much more involved; you’re replacing the surface of your deck. With deck refinishing, the boards are left in place but stripped, cleaned, sanded, and stained. Read on to learn more about the difference between resurfacing and refinishing.

man paints with white paint on wooden planks

Resurfacing

Before you determine whether you need to resurface or refinish your deck, you need to ensure that your deck is structurally sound. If the foundation or framing is damaged to the point that they are unsafe, your deck needs to be torn down and rebuilt. A qualified deck resurfacing specialist should be able to help you determine the condition of your deck’s structure, but most companies will charge a fee to inspect your deck and decide if it’s a good candidate for resurfacing.

So what kind of things will a professional look for?

  • The floorboards and/or railings are decayed, rotting, or moldy, soft or spongy
  • The wood is splintering, cracking, or lifting
  • The boards are swollen and warped
  • Fasteners such as nails and screws are coming loose (this often happens when boards swell and lift).
  • There is minor termite damage to boards
  • The structure/frame of the deck is in good condition

If you or a resurfacing specialist notices these symptoms, resurfacing may be a very good option. When your deck is resurfaced, the floorboards and railings are removed and replaced with new—often higher-quality—boards. You can also change the type of deck boards; if you had wood boards, you can replace them with composite or a higher quality wood. In terms of national averages, resurfacing might cost anywhere between $800 and $2,000.

Refinishing

Refinishing brings luster and life back to your tired-looking deck by stripping, cleaning, and treating the existing surfaces. First, your deck is cleaned, either by scrubbing, pressure washing, or stripping. Scrubbing is most effective for smaller decks; pressure washing is an efficient way to clean average to large-size decks, and stripping is good for spot-treating areas like railings and out-of-the-way spaces of your deck. After the deck is washed, it may need sanding to help prevent splinters and ensure a smooth surface. About 48 hours after washing, a stain is applied. It’s important to select the right stain, and/or discuss your options with a deck resurfacing specialist. When you hire a contractor, refinishing costs (on average) between $500 and $700 for an average-size deck.

How much help does your deck need?

By knowing what to look for, you can make an accurate assessment of your deck and a good decision between resurfacing and refinishing. Both of these options can significantly improve the appearance of your deck and lengthen its lifespan, especially when the work is done by an experienced professional with a proven track record.