How to replace a section or an entire deck board that is damaged, split, warped, or cracked.
A common issue with aging decks is that the decking material will warp, rot, or crack. Deck boards can be repaired or replaced without much trouble if you have the right tools and a little carpentry skill. Replacing boards on your deck extends the useful life of the deck and makes it safer for you and your family. This article will describe how to replace entire boards and replace a section of a board that is damaged.
Tools and Materials
• Eye Protection
• Circular Saw
• Power Drill with wood drill bits
• Framing Square
• Tape Measure
• 3" Deck Nails or Deck Screws
• Nail Puller / Cat’s Paw
• Safety Goggles
• Decking – Make sure you have the correct size, grade, and species of wood decking. It may be necessary to bring a piece of the decking to the lumber yard or home center to confirm.
Anatomy of a Deck
Replacing a Section of Board
Replacing a section of a board is something that many people are afraid to try because they think it is too difficult. To do it, you will need a jigsaw, screws, nails, a framing square, tape measure, and a drill.
Note: Many do it yourselfers, and carpenters for that matter, make this repair difficult by forgetting to condition their wood. Wood from the lumber yard or home center may be wetter or drier than the deck boards already installed on your deck. After you make your cuts to get a tight fit, the wood may swell or shrink at a different rate than the existing boards causing the decking to buckle or leave a larger gap. It is best to purchase the wood you require for the repairs and set it out on the deck for several days or up to a week prior to making your repairs. This way the new wood will have a similar moisture content as the existing decking.
The first step is to cut through the deck board alongside the joists on both ends of the damaged section. Locate the joists by sticking a nail in between the decking to feel for the edge. Draw a line on the deck board to locate the edge. Use a drill with a ½ inch wood boring bit to drill a hole along the edge of the line. Repeat for the other joist. Use your jigsaw to cut along the line and remove the damaged decking.
To provide a stable base for the new deck board you will need to install a cleat to the joists. Cut a piece of pressure treated 2x4 or 2x6 about 8 inches wider than the width of the deck board. If you have access to the joists from below, you can install the cleat with galvanized 16d nails or screws. If you can’t access the joists from below, drill pilot holes into the cleat and secure it with 3 inch deck screws. You will have to slide the cleat in the hole where the decking has been removed and hold the cleat up against the underside of the decking. Screw it into place with you drill and driver. You may want to secure the cleat in place with a nail to keep it in place while you secure the screws.
Cut the board to fit the space you now have in your deck. You should cut the board about 1/8 shorter than the opening. Using deck screws or nails, attach the board to the cleats you installed before. When using nails always remember set the heads below the surface of the decking with a nail set to maintain a smooth deck surface.
If the deck board is wider than the existing deck boards you may need to rip down the board on a table saw or with a hand plane if the difference is less than 1/8 inch.
Replacing a Whole Deck Board
In many cases it is better and easier to replace the entire deck board. This is a fairly straightforward repair.
First, locate the nails or screws that are holding the decking into place. Use a drill with a Philips head bit to remove the screws. Depending on the age of the deck and what types of fasteners they used, the screws may break off or be rusted to the point where you can’t remove them.
If there are nails or damaged screws, use a cat’s paw to remove them. The cat’s paw is an excellent tool for getting under the nail or screw head and pulling them out. Be careful not to damage adjacent boards.
Once the damaged deck board has been removed, cut the new board to length. If the deck board is over 8 feet long, you should cut the board about ¼ inch shorter if the new deck board is butting existing boards on each end. Leave a 1/8 inch gap between the new board and the existing board.
Depending on the type of wood you use you should determine the grain pattern in the wood before nailing it into place.
• Note the end grain pattern of the replacement plank and orient the end grain rings so that they curve upward. This will help prevent cupping as the plank weathers.
• If the decking is not cedar, redwood or pressure treated lumber; it will need to be treated with a preservative. Do this before installing the plank.
• Drill pilot holes through the new plank into the support structure below and fasten with 3" galvanized decking nails or deck screws.
All-heart grades. Grades of wood which contain no knots or blemishes.
Band joists. Joists which form an attractive border or band around the framing joists.
Bow. The deviation from straight and true seen when looking at a board on its edge.
Crown. The highest point of a warped board, seen from the board’s side.
Cup. The warp of a board seen from the board’s end.
HDG (Hot dipped galvanized). A rustproof coated metal which is less expensive than aluminum or stainless steel.
Joists. A system of floor framing commonly using 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 lumber.