Deck renovation: 5 considerations for renovating or building a wood deck

Spending time outdoors in your backyard with friends and family is much more enjoyable when you have a beautiful, welcoming deck to relax or entertain guests on. Classic wood decks add quite a bit of value to a home and when properly constructed can potentially last for up to 15 to 20 years, with proper maintenance. In fact, a well-built wood deck that is looking a bit rough and weathered may only need minor renovation to bring it back to its former glory.

As long as your deck is structurally sound and given the all clear by a professional contractor, there is no reason to tear down the entire deck. In many cases, even when the surface boards, whether they’re pressure treated wood or cedar, appear to be well passed their prime, underneath you'll find that the pressure-treated supporting structure is still sound. This is naturally due to the different levels or foot traffic and weather exposure that the surface of your wood deck endures compared to the base support.  This is why a deck renovation is less time consuming and typically much less expensive than building a new deck from nothing.

When you're in the process of a deck renovation, there are five factors you should keep in mind before you start reconstruction.

Replace decking with a superior material

One of the most important choices you will make during a wood deck renovation is what material you will use to replace the old boards that are removed. This is not a decision to be made lightly and you should strongly consider opting for wood that requires less maintenance and offers benefits, such as improved durability.

(Residential deck, by Mareiner Holz)

A good example of a superior wood option is modified wood. Modified wood is going to offer you the visual beauty of real wood but with far less maintenance than traditional wood decking. You won't need to worry about staining, painting or sealing it, because the wood weathers to a beautiful gray patina without compromising structural stability or the exceptional durability of modified wood. Modified wood is also resistant to splintering and contains no toxins, making it a sustainable and eco-friendly option, safe for family and pets.

Extend structural life with flashing tape

When you're working on a deck renovation it might be worth it to put in just a little more work to ensure that the deck structure will continue to perform well. If you're completely removing your decking boards and have access to the pressure-treated wood below, one important step is to add flashing tape.

(Photo by chezerbey.com)

Flashing tape will be placed on the joists to create a barrier between the boards you will be laying on top as well as prevent water from becoming trapped in between doubled up joists. This is going to extend the life of the deck structure and help eliminate moisture damage in the future.

Install new railings and posts

(Landesgartenschau, by Marcel Adam Landschaftsarchitekten, photo by Salih Usta)

Chances are high that if you have to replace decking boards due to damage from age or poor performance, you should also install new railings and posts. From a safety perspective, it is important to have a railing in place for elevated decks that are an appropriate height. Additionally, railings and posts should be sturdy enough to handle the impact of accidental falls as well as the general wear-and-tear of people leaning against them.

Consider a new post and railing design for your deck. Certain looks, such as wooden posts, top and bottom rails combined with metal cables inside are trending and are fairly easy to make. You may also choose to cover wood posts in a faux stone column for a different stylish touch.

Expand your deck or add a terrace

(Private garden, by Villa Garden, photo by Heidi Hannus)

A deck renovation is naturally the best time to add more decking space or a terrace if you want a bigger deck. Rather than tearing down an existing deck, you can quite easily build onto your current deck. If a direct expansion isn't possible, chances are you can instead add stairs to terraces which can look quite beautiful.

Homeowners with an elevated or second story deck may add a staircase down to a ground-level deck to expand their outdoor entertainment space. When adding these types of structural expansions you should also consider any other features you'd like to be included in your new design. Built-in planters and trellises or an overhead arbor for shade are a few examples to think about.

Include recessed ambient lighting

(Rooftop apartment, by Homexo, photo by Studio Oslo)

Ambient lighting can add a totally new dimension to an otherwise plain wood deck. It instantly makes the deck look more luxurious, not to mention this additional lighting is ideal for evening entertaining and improved safety.

You can use LED or solar lighting recessed under railings, topped on posts and within the risers of any stairsteps. Ambient deck lighting looks best when a warm toned light is used that isn't too bright. A decent glow is much preferred over a harsh bright white light. Ambient lighting is particularly nice for wood decks as the glow also enhances the visual warm look wood is so loved for.

If your wood deck is looking a little worse for wear or you just purchased a new house with an unsafe deck, it is a good idea to have a contractor come out and inspect the structural soundness before you simply have it torn down. Deck renovation is almost always a preferred option over a complete demolition and reconstruction. Not only will it save you time and money, but as the five considerations featured show, there are plenty of changes you can make to an existing deck structure that will make it look completely new.

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