If you want to replace your decking boards with Trex capped composite decking, but the structure underneath looks okay, can you salvage the frame and just put down new decking?
When is it okay to resurface a deck on an existing structure, and when do you need to replace the entire deck?
Custom decks are all different, and there are times when it is possible to reuse the existing structure under a deck.
However, there are also many situations where it’s necessary to replace the structural framing when installing new decking.
The reasons for rebuilding the underneath structure of a deck include safety, accommodating a new layout or design, or the age or condition of the framing members or deck foundation.
If the framing underneath a deck needs replacement, the average cost is about $3,000. Of course, this amount could be significantly more or less, depending on the size, location, and design of the new deck.
If your deck needs an upgrade, and you are wondering if you can reuse the existing frame underneath, here are five questions to ask and answer before making a decision.
1. What is the Age and Condition of the Existing Deck?
If you are considering reusing the framing under your existing deck and resurfacing it with capped composite decking, the first question to ask is the age and condition of the existing structure.
You may know the age of your deck, or you may need to look at building permits to find out if a permit was taken out when the deck was built.
However, the exact age of the deck is not as important as the overall condition of the structure. The condition depends on the age, the quality of the workmanship and materials used when the deck was built, as well as how the deck has been maintained over the years.
The best way of determining the condition of a deck is by having an experienced deck-building professional inspect the structure. This person can also determine if a new frame is needed when you install new decking.
It’s a good idea to have a deck building professional inspected your deck every three to five years, so you can be aware of any problems before they become a safety hazard.
The lifespan of a deck varies considerably, depending on how well it was initially built, the quality of materials used in the construction, and the overall adequacy of the design, such as the size of framing members.
Poorly-built decks constructed with shoddy materials often last only four or five years before they start developing, sagging deck boards, rickety staircases, and broken railings.
The best-built decks last as long as 40 years, or longer.
Capped composite decking is known as the ‘forever’ decking because it’s guaranteed to last for 25 years. If you are going to reuse existing framing under a composite deck, you want to be sure the framing will last as long as the new decking you’re installing.
In many situations, if the existing deck structure is over 15-years old, replacing the entire deck is the best option.
However, if the existing deck framework was exceptionally well-built, using high-quality framing materials, and you are not changing the deck layout, it may be possible to reuse some or all of the frame, even if it’s over 15-years old.
Consulting with an experienced builder like Custom Deck Creations can give you valuable information about the condition of your deck and reusing your existing deck framing when you make repairs.
2. Are You Changing the Layout of the Deck?
When someone is making upgrades to their deck, they often also want to change the layout or design.
Changing the layout includes:
• Making the deck larger
• Extending the deck around the side of the house
• Adding or widening a staircase
• Adding a new level to the deck
• Installing a hot tub
• Changing the design of the railing
• Installing a pergola
• Installing an outdoor kitchen area
Each of these types of layout and design changes can affect whether the underneath framing of the deck needs altering or replacement.
If you don’t plan on any significant changes to the size, shape, or use of your deck, it’s more likely you can reuse the existing structural framework, depending on the other factors listed here.
If you want to install a hot tub, add a glass panel railing, or put in a new set of stairs, it may be necessary to replace or change the structural framing underneath the deck to accommodate these additions.
It’s essential to hire a licensed and experienced builder and get the proper building permits when repairing and making changes to the layout of a deck.
You want your new deck built to the building code or stronger with a structural design matching your intended use. A reliable and professional deck builder knows these standards and builds to them.
3. How is the Deck Attached to the House?
Some decks are free-standing, meaning they sit close to the house but are not physically attached to the building. A free-standing deck is likely to have diagonal bracing between the upright posts or heavy-duty metal connectors holding posts to beams, preventing the structure from swaying side to side.
Most decks are connected to the house, and this can makes the structure more stable and reduce the need for diagonal bracing. Properly attaching a deck to a house involves installing flashing between the deck framing and the building.
The Importance of Flashing and Fasteners
Flashing is made with metal or plastic sheeting, and it’s placed between the deck framing and the side of the house to prevent water from leaking inside the wall.
If the flashing is not installed on your existing deck, your builder should installing some to achieve a watertight seal between the deck and house.
If the old deck lacks flashing, it’s more likely there is also rot in the framing of the house where it adjoins the deck. Your contractor will need to remove deck framing to repair this damage.
It is also important to look at the number and type of fasteners attaching the deck framing to the house. If insufficient fasteners were used, it may be necessary to replace the framing and attach it with more solid bolts and screws.
The connection between a house and a deck is an important point in deck construction, and it’s an area susceptible to rot and deterioration. Inspecting this area carefully from underneath the deck is crucial as you decide if the deck framing can be reused or if it needs to be replaced.
4. How Solid is the Existing Deck Foundation?
Under the wood framing of a deck is a foundation of pier blocks or poured concrete footings. Having a good foundation under a deck is vital for maximizing the lifespan of the structure.
If your deck foundation is inadequate, but the framing above is sound, it might be possible to pour new concrete footings under the existing posts.
However, if all the foundation piers need replacement, or the deck is low to the ground, removing the deck framing may be necessary for upgrading the foundation to support the new deck.
The condition of your deck’s foundation may affect whether or not you need to redo the framing.
5. What Type of Wood is the Existing Deck Frame Construction?
The best material for deck framing is pressure-treated (PT) lumber. PT lumber sold today is not the same as it was a couple of decades ago.
In the past, manufactures used more toxic chemicals in PT wood products. While older PT wood is more toxic to the environment, it is also less likely to rot than some of the PT products made more recently with less toxic formulations.
Older PT wood is greenish, although the color fades with age. Newer PT wood has a light brown color, and it looks different than the older type of PT wood.
All PT wood has small indentations covering the surface on all sides. These marks allow the preservative chemicals to penetrate the wood more thoroughly, and they are a sign to look for if you want to check if your deck framing is PT lumber.
If your existing deck frame is made with the older PT wood, it is more likely you can salvage it for reuse when you are resurfacing your deck.
If your deck was built about 15 years ago with the first generation of the newer PT wood products, rot in the framing members is more likely, and full replacement might be necessary.
The choice of composite vs wood for the framing of the deck structure is not an issue because the underneath framing of a deck should be solid, PT beams, posts, and joists and not a composite material.
Decking made with composite materials is designed for deck surfaces, railings, pergolas, and stair treads and not for the framing members holding up the deck.
Capped Composite vs Wood Michigan Decks
Composite decking has a longer life and almost no requirement for maintenance compared to wood decking. However, the lifespan of any deck depends on the soundness of the structure underneath.
Custom Deck Creations builds each deck individually. When we build Michigan decks, we work with each customer to design and build the deck matching both their vision and their budget. Doing this includes looking into the feasibility of reusing the existing framing under a deck.
We also always get the necessary permits for all deck projects. All municipalities in Michigan require building permits for replacing decking boards, redoing railings and staircases, and rebuilding deck frames.
Other deck contractors skip permits to save a few hundred dollars, but this leaves the customer open to fines and penalties if the new deck is spotted by the building or zoning department officials or reported by a neighbor.
Having permits for new, custom decks is also a benefit when you sell your home. A prospective buyer might look up building permits for improvements and ask for discounts or back out of an offer if construction was done illegally.
If you have an existing deck in Michigan and you want to know if you can redo it using the existing framing, contact Custom Deck Creations for a complete deck inspection and estimate for repairs.