deck with rot - deck problems to watch out for

It’s estimated that there are 30 million decks in American homes. Decks are brilliant–they give you a place to relax in summer, a place to spend time with your family, and they add value to your home. It’s easy to see why they’re so popular.

Deck problems can jeopardize all of these good times. While you might know the basics of deck repair, do you know the early signs of rot, mildew, and insect damage? Unless you’re a decking professional, you might not.

Luckily, the experts at Decks & Docks know what to spot. Read on to learn about 5 early signs of deck problems.

1. Early Signs of Rot

Rot is a huge problem for any wooden structure, and it’s usually quite easy to spot. 

Look for darkened wood that is softer than the wood around it. If it gives under pressure from your screwdriver, it’s likely rotted.

The best way to avoid rot is with preventative deck maintenance.

When your deck was built, your builder likely applied a coating to it. This is called a sealant, which helps to protect the wood from moisture. If you have a composite deck, this step isn’t required.

Sealing your deck annually is one of the best ways to keep it in top condition. To seal your deck, you’ll need a sanding tool and a tin of wood sealant of your choice.

Sanding your deck before sealing helps to create a more uniform finish. Once the deck is evenly sanded, apply a coat of sealant and allow it to dry. This can take up to two days, depending on the weather.

While you might be tempted to apply the sealant during the height of summer to make it dry quicker, you shouldn’t! This can give your decking a spotty appearance. Do it when the weather is cooler and let it air dry.

2. Black Stains: A Sign of Mildew

Stopping rot in its tracks is an important part of deck repair, but other deck problems aren’t as easy to prevent. When it comes to mold and mildew, you may have to take a more reactive approach.

Deck mildew looks like dark stains on your deck. These are caused by tannins in the wood reacting with its fungal invader. If you notice mildew stains on your deck, you can remove them with oxalic acid.

If you spot any dark stains during your deck checks, you need to get your hands on some mold and mildew cleaner. These washes are industrial strength and can kill any nasties that are lurking in your deck before they cause any more problems.

3. Holes in Your Deck

It’s easy for small holes to appear in your deck. These can be from rot, nail holes, or any number of other reasons. If you leave them alone, these holes can weaken your boards and get bigger over time.

You need to fill the holes before they get worse, but what should you fill them with?

The answer is something that will flex with the wood. The best solution is wood filler. These work like epoxy resin and can flex over time.

If the holes are too big to fill with wood filler, then you’re going to need to replace the damaged board to restore your deck’s looks.

4. Wobbly Railings

Wobbling, loose railings are never a good sign. Sure, your deck would survive without railings, but they’d be a major safety hazard–the last thing you want to happen is for them to give way while you lean against them.

Loose railings should not be ignored. While you could replace your railings, this might not be necessary.

Nails aren’t suitable for holding railings against your deck. Instead, you need half-inch carriage bolts, nuts, a washer, a hammer, a drill, and a wrench. Drill through the railings and into the joist, then put the carriage bolts through the holes, using your hammer to tap them through. Put the nut on the bolt, tighten them up, and you’re done.

Railings held on like this will not wobble.

5. Signs of Bugs 

Bugs are a menace and can cause all kinds of deck problems. The two most problematic bugs are carpenter ants and termites. 

These are common signs of carpenter ants:

  • Wood shavings on the ground below the deck
  • Rustling noises inside the deck
  • Winged ants on the deck
  • Shed wings on your deck

These are common signs of a termite infestation:

  • Springy deck
  • When tapped, wood sounds hollow
  • Sunken wood
  • Rot

Rot isn’t an automatic sign of termites, but it can attract the bugs.

If you’ve got any of these problems, you need to act fast. The best way to avoid bugs getting into your deck is to make your deck as non-bug-friendly as possible.

If your deck is made of wood, keep plants away from it. Plants can allow moisture and rot, which then attracts critters. If you have a composite deck, you can have plants as close to your deck as you would like.

Address any moisture problems as soon as you notice them. You should also seal any cracks or holes in your decking, and keep pipes and wires flush to the deck. There should also not be any point where mulch is touching your deck.

Deck Repair Doesn’t Need to Be Hard

Deck maintenance is part and parcel of owning a deck. It isn’t hard, but you do need to run regular deck checks to spot any issues before they become more severe. If regular deck maintenance isn’t for you, check out our selection of rot-resistant composite and PVC decking materials from Trex, TimberTech and WearDeck.

Do you have any questions about building or maintaining your deck? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! We’ll do our very best to help you out.