hand using brush to re-seal weather-beaten deck boards
Photo: Kristine Larsen
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Weather-beaten Deck Boards

Potential problem: If not kept in check, soft boards and loose outer rails can lead to deck collapse. Probe cracks with a flathead screwdriver; if you can insert it more than ¼ inch or if the wood feels spongy or breaks off without splintering, you may have rot. See if the rails have any give by firmly wiggling them.

Fix it now: Pry off damaged boards. Cut replacements to length and secure them to the supporting joists below using stainless deck screws. Leave a 1/8-inch gap between any new boards for proper drainage. To hide the repairs, stain or preserve the boards to match the rest of the deck. Remedy loose rails and balusters by updating old fasteners with new screws, adding construction adhesive for extra strength. Tighten any loose bolts that secure the rails' posts to the deck framing. Besides a few hours of your time with a saw, drill/driver, and wrench, expect to spend about 60 cents per linear foot for pressure-treated decking and $14 for a box of stainless screws, both vailable at home centers.

What you'll save: From $500 to $10,000 for a professional to fix or replace the deck, depending on how widespread the damage is.

DIY: Learn how to do your own deck check.
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