Time to Restore a Deck? Or When Replacement Makes More Sense

Posted On : August 19, 2017

A beautiful deck can liven up any backyard. When it looks good, of course. How do you know when it’s time to restore a deck or simply start over? There are several considerations before embarking on a maintenance project or a backyard remodel. Let’s explore the differences.

Cracked & Stained Decks in Southern California

Many years ago the cement decking industry determined that expansion joints — the section of a deck that allows for space between parts to expand and contract — between deck pours should be 12’. This standard reduced the chances of cracking. Well, here in Southern California, we experience thousands of earthquakes (large and small) each year. According to EarthquakeTrack, California had 7,776 earthquakes in the last 365 days.

Subsequently, that standard was revised to 10’ between expansion joints. However, deck gurus recommend that expansion joints should be spaced no more than 8’. So that explains why you see so many cracked decks in Southern California.

Other common issues with decks are stains, faded colors, and lifting due to tree roots or soil expansion. With all these factors, it’s no surprise that homeowners aren’t sure if it’s to restore a deck or simply start over with a remodel.

Deck Removal: An Expensive Remedy

Now that we’ve covered why decks crack let’s first explore the removal process.

  • A typical deck can be 6” thick. Steel rebar is often used to reinforce the decking material for added strength and rigidity. Breaking up and discarding the old material is a challenge, especially for large areas.
  • If your deck is adjacent to pool coping, planters, water features, or other hardscaping, the removal project requires specialized and smaller tools to avoid damaging areas not part of the removal project.
  • One of the biggest complaints we hear about deck removal is the noise and mess. Jackhammers are loud and can fray a homeowner’s (and their neighbors’) nerves.
  • Matching colors and patterns (with stamping) to existing decks are problematic. There are no guarantees that the newly poured deck will closely match other backyard decks.
  • To get a consistent look, removal of all decking is necessary. That’s one of the reasons why replacement is often the most costly way to restore a deck.

Deck Restoration Options

There are two ways you can restore a deck: an overlay or paving tiles.

Deck Overlays

A deck overlay is sometimes a viable — and less expensive — alternative to removing and replacing a deck. It’s often a popular choice for deck restoration projects for these reasons:

  • Changes the color and texture of a deck which easily hides stains. If some portions of the deck need to be removed and others remain, a deck overlay can be applied to both thus creating a final finished look.
  • Eliminates the huge mess and noise created by breaking up deck material.
  • Repairs minor cracks. Overlay material is inherently flexible which can hide future cracking. Overlay decking material does not hide severe cracking or areas where tree roots have caused a deck to buckle or lift.
  • Adds a designer look. By using color and texture your backyard deck can be useful and beautiful.
  • Requires a qualified contractor. To avoid peeling and other application issues, it’s best to have an experienced contractor restore your deck. Even so, due to exposure to elements, the overlay may peel over time.

“Handling deck fixes properly is a matter of offering the best solution rather than the one the contractor wants to sell,” Mark Feldstein, Sales Manager, Gardner Outdoor and Pool Remodeling.

Deck Paving Tiles

There are pavers designed for placement on top of existing decks. They are typically between ½” to ¾” as opposed to normal pavers which will be about 2-3/8” thick or more, depending on the application. Many of our clients choose paving tiles as a way to restore their deck for these reasons:

  • Pavers are much more forgiving regarding earth movements than conventionally poured decks. Unless there’s a catastrophic event like an earthquake or falling tree, pavers typically do not crack.
  • If damaged, they can be easily removed and replaced. New pavers may not match depending on the age of surrounding tiles. Even so, we’ve found that it’s easier to match pavers than a poured deck.
  • The screed of the home — the space between the home’s outside wall to where the deck begins —  must be accounted for. You need at least 2” for good drainage. While the deck may follow this guideline, the addition of even a ½” paver might take this beyond acceptable code.
  • Pavers can effectively and beautifully hide severe cracks. Paving tiles can create attractive design features that go beyond covering up ugly decks.
  • Less construction noise and dust. Removing a deck requires noisy power tools that also creates dust. With pavers, while there is some cutting of some material to fit in some areas, it’s a less intrusive installation process.

Now that we’ve explained three ways to restore your deck, are you ready to get started?