From the Field

Ready to soak in the sun­shine? Spring is a per­fect time to get out and en­joy your deck — just make sure it’s ready for you.

Log Home Living - - CONTENTS -

Ready to soak in the sun­shine? Spring is a per­fect time to get out and en­joy your deck — just make sure it’s ready for you.

The weather is warm­ing up, and you want to get out­side and hang out on your deck. But first, make sure it’s in good work­ing or­der.

Through the win­ter, deck­ing ma­te­ri­als, whether wood or syn­thetic, are ex­posed to the el­e­ments in more dras­tic ways than at other times of the year. This means they’ve been sub­ject to an in­creased risk of move­ment due to ex­pan­sion and con­trac­tion from fluc­tu­at­ing tem­per­a­tures and stand­ing mois­ture, and as such, po­ten­tial dam­age.

Here, we’ll re­view a few of the main is­sues to look for and what needs to be done to shore them up. Un­der­stand that a deck is a struc­tural mem­ber of your house. It’s de­signed and built to carry weight loads, so in­spect­ing it is more in­volved than en­sur­ing the fin­ish looks good.

If you no­tice that the sur­face of your deck­ing is look­ing worn, the boards are cup­ping/ bow­ing or screws/nails are pop­ping, it stands to rea­son that be­neath the sur­face, the boards, sup­ports or fram­ing could use some at­ten­tion.

Start by look­ing at the joists — what’s ac­tu­ally sup­port­ing your deck boards. Most decks are built with pres­sure-treated wood, which is prone to some bow­ing or warp­ing, but if the warp­ing is pro­nounced, it could cause the deck to pull away from the house.

Also, pay at­ten­tion to how your deck is joined to the house. It should be fas­tened with a band board, which at­taches to the fram­ing mem­ber of your house. Make sure it’s solid.

If you see signs that it’s not, it’s a fairly straight­for­ward fix. Lag bolts and screws de­signed for decks will se­cure it, but also en­sure joist hang­ers were used. (Older decks may have a ledger strip, which is a piece of wood that the joists rest upon; how­ever, this method alone is in­fe­rior, as the ledger can pull away and cause a col­lapse.) A joist hanger is a metal brace that at­taches to the band board and then holds the joist in place for a more sta­ble fit.

Next, ex­am­ine the posts that sup­port your deck. Most decks have con­crete piers that the posts at­tach to; how­ever, a wood post — even

pres­sure-treated wood — is sub­ject to rot at that junc­tion. As you con­duct your in­spec­tion, make sure the con­crete hasn’t set­tled due to a shift in the slope or ero­sion (this is also a good time to make sure wa­ter flow from down­spouts is di­rected away from the deck posts). If you no­tice is­sues here, don’t ig­nore them. Un­even shift­ing of the piers/posts could pull at the band boards and joists, caus­ing your deck to pull away from the house. To fix it, you may have to re­place the post, if the set­tle­ment is that great, or you can el­e­vate the post with a deck-post base or con­crete mem­ber. Ex­treme move­ment could make it nec­es­sary to pour a new foot­ing. con­tin­ued on page 86

Fi­nally, look at the rail­ings, spin­dles, etc., to en­sure they are tight and, like the other deck com­po­nents, se­cure any loose ones to pre­vent dan­ger­ous falls.

Chances are that your deck is struc­turally sound and sim­ply needs a good clean­ing or a fresh coat of stain. The key here is to be gen­tle! Don’t rent a power washer, then blast your deck think­ing the more force you use, the cleaner it will be. You’ll ruf­fle the wood fibers, caus­ing splin­ters or pop­ping fas­ten­ers. In­stead, use a lit­tle el­bow grease, a cleanser de­signed for decks and a long-han­dled, wide-bris­tled brush to scrub dirt and grime away, then rinse with a gar­den hose. If it needs to be re-coated, al­ways use deck-spe­cific stains and sealants.

If you feel like you’re in over your head, don’t hes­i­tate to reach out to a pro­fes­sional for help. Your safety, as well as that of your fam­ily and friends, is too im­por­tant to leave things to chance.

Dan Mitchell is a builder, Log & Tim­ber Home Univer­sity pro­fes­sor and the 2018 Pres­i­dent of the Greater Knoxville HBA. He owns Ea­gle CDI in Ten­nessee.

An ag­gres­sive post-win­ter in­spec­tion will en­sure your deck is safe, but when it comes to clean­ing and stain­ing it, a gen­tle touch is the way to go.

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