DIY Deck Repair/Rebuild, Part 3: Some Details

This post is coming to you much later than intended, because I’ve kind of been dreading writing it. It’s one of those posts where I have to consult extensively with Dave, since I wasn’t really the primary decision maker or the primary getting stuff done-er on the project.

And I hate talking to Dave.

Just kidding. But it’s an extra step, and I feel out of my element, and….anyway. Here goes!

This is not a how to rebuild your deck tutorial. For one thing, a lot of people out there know a lot more about it than we do, and they’ve already written tutorials and done videos (which we used extensively in our planning/research phase). For another thing, our project was very our deck specific. We didn’t tear down the deck and build a new one; we reused as much of the existing structure as we could.

I’m not sure what the evolution was, but our deck is all kind of one structure with our covered porch. All of the supports and framework for the covered porch were in very good shape, however, and the uncovered deck part was….not. We though about keeping the existing support posts, maybe adding an extra one for good measure, and then just replacing the actual floor and railing….but closer inspection of the support posts convinced us this was not the best idea. So what we ended up doing was keeping the existing frame of the deck (we did reinforce some of the boards that were in worse shape than others), not touching anything with the covered part of the porch. We added new supports for the front part of the open deck and tore up and replaced all the decking and the railing.

I’m going to talk about three things that I think might have some universal relevance for deck repairers and builders everywhere and thus might be helpful to someone: the support posts, tearing up the old decking, and how we decided to build the new railing.

Support Posts: Our old support posts were just 4x4s at each corner of the deck, and they were in pretty terrible shape:

If you look back behind those corner posts, you can see how the supports were done at different stages of the deck building/adding onto process: thicker posts and those cross beams and brackets up at the top. These looked nicer and seemed sturdier, so we went with trying to replicate those for the new supports at the front of the deck.

This was the most complicated part of the deck repair process (really, it was the only thing that was at all complicated; putting down floorboards and putting up a railing are both about as straightforward as woodworking gets).

We used 6 by 6 posts for the support posts. First we dug out the holes with a post hole digger:

Then we put pea gravel in the bottom of the holes for drainage:

….put the posts in, and filled in with cement:

We screwed the supports into the deck joists, and then we attached the posts to two two by twelves along the top.

Replacing decking: So it seems like this should be the fun part: you get to tear stuff up and then just put a bunch of boards down right next to each other. It turns out that pulling up 20+ year old deck boards is a lot harder than it seems like it ought to be, though. Dave started out trying to pry the nails up with the back of the hammer and then pull the boards up, and it was taking FOREVER. So I finally got on the internet and found some tips on speeding the process along, and that led us to this handy tool, the Wrecking Claw (affiliate link) and this technique:

Dave explains what he’s doing in the video, but basically he alternated using the wrecking claw with a regular crowbar, and it took less than a minute to pull each board up after that.

Building the railing: it’s not that building the railing is complicated, it’s just that there are a surprising number of decisions to make about how to do it:

So, for example, we had to decide how to do the posts (we opted for bolting them to the outside of the frame, as opposed to, say, having them rest directly on top of it). We had to decide whether the balusters should go all the way down to the floorboards or whether we should have a board running across the bottom for them to attach to (that’s what we went with). And we had to decide what the top would look like and whether it would have a second board perpendicular to that top one you see there going along the top. We didn’t do that, but we’re still thinking about it. Dave thinks it would make it look a lot better from the outside.

I kind of wanted to do something….unusual out here so that it didn’t look like every other deck in the world. But, honestly, I couldn’t think of anything to that wouldn’t look like we were doing something different for the sake of being different. I thought of horizontal boards, but it’s far enough off the ground that we didn’t want it to appear too ladder like to small children.

In the end, we made very boring decisions about the railing, but I’m perfectly happy with how it turned out. I plan to be interesting elsewhere out here. And now that this post is FINALLY finished, we can move on to the funner, more interesting parts! Like the new rug we just bought. More on that later!

And I know this doesn’t nearly cover everything, so if you have any specific questions about our process, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll try to answer!


DIY Deck Repair/Rebuild, Part 3: Some Details — 3 Comments

  1. I am impressed with Dave’s two-handed technique. I can tell it helps to be tall. I have seen a wrecking claw before, but I’ve never used one.
    I’m hoping this inspires me to do the five-years-worth of bits and pieces that need fixing on my deck (which seems to have been built from a kit–lots of weird metal pieces, like post caps and balusters) that have fallen off and are still knocking around outside.

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