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Tips for a deck remodel.

Our friends in the deck business tell us that "re-deck" projects are keeping them busy these days: They tear off the old wood decking and repair the deck's framing if needed. Then they install new decking, using low-maintenance composite deck boards. Usually, they install new railings, too. The homeowner gets a deck that looks completely new, without paying for new footings or framing. If that sounds good to you, check out these tips for a DIY re-deck.

Brace before tear-off

On many decks, the decking plays a big role in keeping the entire structure square. So add a diagonal brace under joists before you tear off the old decking. That will lock the joists in place and hold the deck square as you pull off the old boards and lay new ones. Leave the brace in place after you've installed the new decking; it will reduce side-to-side sway and make the deck feel more solid.

Tear-off techniques

If your decking is nailed down, just pry up the boards. Here's a common approach: Pry up one end of each board with a flat pry bar, then use a big pry bar to do most of the work. If your deck is screwed down, tear-off will take more time. Remove all the screws you can with a drill/driver. When a stripped screw head prevents that, try to pry up the board. If that fails, you can drill into the head with a 1/4-in. bit. That will detach the head from the screw and allow you to pry the board off.

Add stair stringers

Most composites require that stair stringers be spaced no more than 12 in. apart ("on center"). But your existing stringers are probably 16 in. apart. To solve that problem, remove the center stringer or stringers (you can leave the side stringers in place). Mark out as many new stringers as you need, using a removed stringer as a pattern. Cut the new stringers and install them all--old and new--at the correct spacing.

Include splice boards

Decks are often larger than the longest deck boards available. The usual solution is to join the boards end-to-end, scattering the splices randomly across the deck. That's fine, but here's a better way: If your deck is 24 ft. long, for example, buy 12-ft. boards and run a "splice board" down the middle of the deck. The splice board will require some extra framing to support it and the adjoining deck boards, but the neat look is worth the trouble.

Flatten the joists

Most composite decking isn't as stiff as wood, so it won't bridge uneven joists as well. And that can mean a wavy deck surface. One pro we talked to always stretches a string across the joists and shaves down high spots with a planer. That adds an hour to the project but pays off with a flatter, better-looking deck.

Don't limit your choices

You can stop by a home center and buy a load of in-stock composite decking. But don't restrict your selection that way. Instead, visit the materials desk and look at samples of what you can special-order. Or visit a showroom store that specializes in decking (search online for "decking supplies").

You'll see a wide range of prices, sometimes as low as $4 per sq. ft. and as high as $12. At the low end of the price range, you'll get solid coloring and a smooth texture or unconvincing imitation wood grain. Spending more will get you streaked coloring and textures that closely mimic real wood. You can also get a much tougher, stain-resistant surface by choosing composite that's "capped" with a layer of PVC. The capped decking shown here is from AZEK's Vintage Collection.

Add pizzazz with a pattern

Because it's available in various colors, composite decking makes borders and patterns easy. For design ideas and color combinations, visit manufacturer websites. The colors shown here are Harvest Bronze and Walnut Grove from AZEK's XLM line.

by Gary Wentz
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Author:Wentz, Gary
Publication:The Family Handyman
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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