Tips for repairing and protecting your porch or deck

July 29, 2015

Porches and decks are an important extension of your outdoor living space – perhaps even your favourite place to relax and entertain guests. To help keep them in top shape, you'll need to do some preventative maintenance and repair. Here are tips about what to do.

Tips for repairing and protecting your porch or deck

[Image Credit: iStock/tacojim]

Vent your deck

Water dripping from the roof can cause deck boards to rot with surprising speed. The best solution A gutter to carry the water away.

  • If a gutter's not possible, consider installing a grill vent along the drip line to let the water drip through vs. pool on top of the boards.

Keep bolts and nails tight

When your deck was built, the wood probably wasn't completely dry — especially if pressure-treated wood was used.

  • As the wood does dry over several years, connections that have been bolted together (beams or joists to posts) or nailed (deck boards to joists) can become loose.

Besides being disconcerting, a deck that wobbles and creaks can cause parts to break eventually. Plus, loose connections collect debris that stays wet and causes rot. If you have this problem:

  • Get underneath the deck and tighten every nut and bolt you see.
  • Tighten nails with a couple of hammer whacks, using a nail set to avoid denting visible areas of deck boards and railings.

Flip weathered deck boards

Deck boards getting worn, weathered, and splintery? It's a common problem that's expected. The answer? Just take them up, flip them over and reinstall.

  • You might still have to replace a few, but it's a cheap way to double the life of most of the boards.

Replace crumbling treads

Are the treads rotting on your porch or deck steps? If the stringers that support the treads are in good shape, it's usually very simple to pull off and replace the old treads.

  • Instead of using one wide plank, replace each tread with two or three narrower boards.
  • The space between boards will allow water to drain through, rather than collect and cause rot that shortens the life of the treads. Less water also means less dangerous ice buildup.

Don't block air circulation

Air circulation below your porch or deck prevents moisture buildup that, in turn, causes rot and encourages termites.

  • If you want to screen the area below a deck or porch, use lattice so that air can move through freely.
  • Keep the lattice about 2.5 cm (one inch) off the ground so it doesn't rot on the bottom.

Watch out-of-control plants

If you hang plants from your porch overhang, make sure they are far enough out so that water drips on the ground, not the porch.

  • Although this tactic won't increase the life of your containers or your plants, you'll extend the life of your deck boards if you keep all your pots on rolling plant stands instead of setting them directly on your deck's surface.
  • Even if you put saucers underneath your containers to catch water, the saucers themselves will leave marks, but water will drain away from rolling stands almost completely.

Forget the welcome mat

Don't put mats on your porch or deck. They collect rot-inducing debris and trap moisture on the surface.

  • If you must have a doormat on the porch, be sure to clean under it regularly. What's more, pick it up and dry it out thoroughly after a rainy period.
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