How to Fix Your Eyesore of a Deck Before Labor Day
Labor Day seems like it’s really far off, partly because it is and partly because we don’t want to admit to ourselves that the lovely summer weather has a timestamp on it. There are some home projects, though, that can’t be done overnight, and setting a goal for yourself is a way to ensure you do it methodically, efficiently, and correctly. For your deck, DIY-ing by Labor Day gives you plenty of time to make it look like the best one on the block, and still leave you enough time to more than enjoy your summer.

What’s Involved with Remodeling a Deck


The good news is remodeling your deck to make it more stable and look nicer is usually far cheaper than replacing it entirely. Plus, you already have existing infrastructure in place, so you don’t have to worry about things like excavating or permits.

The not-so-good news is there’ll be a lot of work involved. Fixing a deck, whether it’s for structural or aesthetic reasons, is not an easy task, and you can look forward to a lot of sweaty, hard work. The bright side of that is that not only will you be adding resale value to your home, but you’ll also have the immense pride and pleasure of knowing you did that beautiful, tough job with your own hands.

Worst Case Scenario: Everything Has to Go


Let’s say your deck has gotten so bad, it’s rotting in some places and is just plain unsafe to walk on. This’ll be your biggest challenge, by far, but not impossible by any means. Double check with your city council to see if you need to re-apply for a permit, or if you can go ahead and just put the same deck, albeit a newer version, in its place. While you probably won’t get caught for not getting a permit, it’s just better not to take that chance.

If your deck is structurally unsound, it may just be a better idea to hire professionals and have them take care of the dirty work. At best, you’re looking at a minimum of three weeks, and that’s if you both know what you’re doing and have done it before. But if you’re set on doing as much of it yourself as possible, at least just hire a licensed deck-building professional to assess the structural integrity of your deck.

The North American Deck and Railing Association, or NADRA, is a great site to use when it comes to deck pictures and ideas, safety tips, and how to do the job. Plus, if you join as a member, you’ll be able to interact with other deck-builders and share valuable tips amongst yourselves.

Medium Job: Replacing the Wood


So maybe you don’t need to replace your deck entirely, especially if you’ve got a solid foundation and a well-designed and strong deck framing. Here’s a project you can definitely sink your teeth into, and accomplish easily by Labor Day.

If your deck is in need of a major upgrade, then go through the steps properly and don’t just place new boards over top of the old ones. The deck framing was designed to hold up a certain amount of wood weight, and adding new boards can really compromise that. There’s also the issue of height problems from an unexpected new layer, as well as ugly holes from possibly hitting the old fasteners.

Instead, it’s a lot smarter to just take off the old boards, make sure your deck framing is still solid (or repair and reinforce as needed), and then put new boards on. While it may seem expensive in the present, you’ll reap the rewards in increased home value later on, plus get the satisfaction of ultimate control in picking out just what you want your deck to look like.

Minor Tweaks and Adjustments


If it’s mostly cosmetic adjustments or minor structural adjustments you have to make, then read on to learn what they are.


  • Tighten fasteners or replace them if they’re looking old and worn.
  • Replace any missing, bent or rusted flashing.
  • Make sure all nails are at an even level with the wood they’ve been tapped into, or just replace them with screws.
  • Do a quick walkaround and check that there’s no loose wood, securing it in place if it is.
  • If you’re not staining your deck, you should be cleaning it at least once a year. Use deck cleaner that you can mix with water in a bucket, and then use a stiff bristle brush to really work the cleaner into the wood. Make sure if there’s anything immovable nearby, like plants, to either cover them up or use a plant-protection spray beforehand. For tougher deck-cleaning jobs, rent a pressure washer and hose off stubborn stains.
  • If your deck was recently cleaned and you want to stain it, go for a darker color to add richness and hide spots. Use rollers to get the most even coating possible, and work by staining yourself into a corner so you can walk off without disrupt the layering of it. Don’t wait for it dry before adding a second coat, but do let it dry thoroughly before you start using it. How old your deck wood will determine how “thirsty” it is, and how much stain and coatings you’ll need.
  • Top everything off by using a clear water repellant coating for that extra layer of protection.

    By starting now, having a deadline like Labor Day is more than enough accomplish fixing your deck, no matter how much of an eyesore it is. Sometimes all it needs is a fresh coat of paint or staining, while sometimes you have to go all-in. But regardless of what your task involves, there’s no reason why you can’t remodel your way into having a beautiful backyard and higher home resale value.
    Amy Wright
    Amy Wright is the Lead Editor of Remodeling Central. When she isn't playing with her dogs she is trying to remodel a classic Chicago style brownstone with her husband.
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