9 Big Signs You Should Have Your Deck Refinished

When your deck goes from fab to old and drab, it’s time to start thinking about refinishing the deck. But, it’s important to know the signs between minor fixes to having the entire deck refinished.

A beautiful, refinished deck will not only look great for the entire exterior of your home but also extend the life of the wood itself.

Many great benefits of restoring a deck:

  • Restoring a wood deck before major damage happens costs less than replacing a wood deck, and refinishing your deck will cost a LOT less.
  • You can halt major structural damage and possible deck failure in it’s tracks by replacing boards, fixing others and protecting it with a new refinish job.
  •  Restoring your deck’s minor problems now (like warping floor boards, loose pieces, shaky rails, and splintering) will help prevent them from turning into bigger issues later on.
  • A refinished deck is an easy improvement that can help the overall resale value of your home allowing it to sell faster!


What Are The Signs Of a Bad Deck?

Besides just looking bad, there are more specific problems that can be a clear sign of your deck needing to be brought back to life. 

Common signs you can look for that indicate the deck is ready to be refinished:

  1. Bad Ledger & Deck Frame
  2. Split or Cracked Boards
  3. Peeling and Flaking Paint
  4. Wood Looks Dry and Old
  5. Splintering Boards
  6. Rotting (Mold & Mildew) Visible On Planks or the Deck Frame
  7. Many Raised Screws, Loose Screw Boards
  8. Faded and Discolored
  9. Spongy and Soft Spots When You Walk On It

1. Bad Ledger & Deck Frame

Solid beams, strong joists, and good looks aren’t much use when you should be worrying about a rotting ledger board. If any of your wood deck’s framing is bad, that needs to be addressed before you can even begin to think about restoring or refinishing a wood deck.



2. Split or Cracked Boards

Split or cracking deck boards can be the beginning of what could be a much larger problem if you allow it to go without fixing. These must be replaced before you can stain the deck. It’s a good idea to check to see if any boards are starting to bow. This also includes the railing, posts, sills and joists. If a board is badly warped and you put a lot of weight on it, these could also split or break completely. If you see any of those signs, don’t wait and replace those boards.

3. Peeling & Flaking Paint

Even if you have a newly re-painted deck you can still find yourself with peeling or flaking paint because the deck was not properly power washed before re-painting. We see this often with homeowners in a hurry to cover problems to sell a home. If you have peeling and flaking, it’s best to have the entire deck stripped, then a good power-washing before the staining process.

4. Wood Looks Dry and Old

Your wood deck simply looks terrible. Maybe there is peeling paint or the wood looks dry and faded – in either case, deck restoration or deck refinishing can restore the beauty of your old deck and make it look like new.



5. Splintering Boards

Wood fibers tend to raise as they expand with rain and water over time. Wood fibers can often remain raised and may cause splinters. Splintering is a clear warning sign of damaged boards and potentially allowing moisture in that will cause them to rot and grow mold. This rotting will eventually lead to them collapsing.


6. Rotted Wood (Mold & Mildew)

Check the boards closely for any mold, mildew or other fungi. Even if your deck is treated, the wood can still rot. Pay special attention to where every post touches the ground…especially if you have a second story deck. If you see mold on the boards, they will need to be replaced before any staining can be done. If you see it on more than one of the support posts, it’s time to for a new deck.

7. Raised Screws, Loose Screw Boards

One of the most common problems regarding deck repair is of nails popping up out of the boards. Nails generally pop out of wood decking due to every day use and because of contraction of the wood during cold and hot periods. While this may be an easy fix, by simply hammering them back down, they actually compromise the integrity of the deck. They are also a major safety hazard for those walking on the wood with bare feet. If there are only a few raised screws or loose screws, simply replace. We recommend NOT to re-hammer them. If there are many and the boards are starting to crack or fall apart, it’s time to replace them and then get your deck refinished.

8. Fading and Discolored Boards

If your deck looks dull, is fading and has discolored board, it’s definitely time to refinish. Over time the weather, traffic use and even chemicals in cleaners or previous stains can bleach can degrade the wood. This includes ultra-violet caused bleaching. 



9. Spongy And Soft When Walked On

Walk around your deck and feel how the wood responds to you. If you feel soft spots, bowing, and even sponginess, this means there are moisture issues with your wood and these planks need to be replaced. Oftentimes, there is rotting underneath the surface that you cannot see. The deck may need to be completely replaced in this situation as well.


Hire a Professional

However, the best way to tell if your deck needs to be refinished is to have a professional come and assess the status of your deck. Which is exactly what we are here to do.

If you have used our guide above and your deck has at least 2 of the problems listed above, we set up a convenient time to meet so we can inspect the deck and give a good idea of options.




deck cedar staining

Cedar Staining: How Long Should You Wait To Stain Your Cedar Deck?

There was a great question posted in the Bob Vila forum that we wanted to share. It came from a homeowner who had recently had a new cedar deck put on and was now contemplating when to have someone come in to stain it.

His question on the forum: “I need some guidance. A couple of buddies of mine say that I need to wait a year before staining my cedar deck…I would like to wait for a dry period in the weather and then have it stained (within 2 months of building it). My buddies say the stain will not take as well. They say wait until next year. Any thoughts on this?”

This is a great question because many homeowners wonder how early they can have someone come in to stay after there is a newly built deck (or any other type of cedar structure like a gazebo or even a swingset).

One of the great responses came back from the Bob Vila staff that explained that staining the cedar sooner rather than later is best for many reasons. His response explains more:

“Your instincts on this are right on track. If you wait a year, the wood will turn gray, and may even show deterioration from the weather. Cedar should be stained as soon as it will accept the stain. This is easy to determine with penetrating semi-transparent stains. Apply the stain, if it soaks in its ready. If it pools on the surface, do it later.

By staining early, you provide UV and water protection to the wood. The natural drying process is slowed down a bit, but that helps prevent cracking. Even if you don’t get great penetration of the stain, the worst that will happen is that you will need a second application next year. Not a bad idea anyway. Penetrating oil stains will not form a film, so early staining cannot cause peeling, chipping or loss of adhesion. I recommend staining as soon as the wood feels and looks dry and weather permits.”

We completely agree. You don’t want to incur any chipping or pealing or cracking so staining within a 2-3 month period is best.

Cedar Deck Association adds a great quote on finishing exter cedar decks:

“Decks should never be allowed to weather before finishing.The simplest, but most labor-intensive, finish to maintain on a cedar deck is a water-repellent preservative, which may have to be applied annually. The next easiest is a semi-transparent oil-based stain. Both types of finishes are extremely effective in stopping the absorption of water and are recommended. It is important to ensure that the product has been specifically formulated to withstand the abrasive effects of foot traffic.”

What do you think?

Should I Stain or Replace My Deck? Warping, Chipping & Splitting Deck Issues

Over time, decks suffer both minor cosmetic issues and major structural problems that can significantly affect their function.  Let’s take a look at some problems and fixes you can do.

Common problems that can occur to your deck are weather, type of materials used, actual construction, and insects.  We will be discussing how to identify these in another post, but for now, be aware that there are problems that affect your deck condition outside your control, however, some, like materials and construction, can be well within your means of control.

A well-maintained deck adds both form and function to your home. Over time, however, several factors contribute to wear and tear, giving homeowners a choice between full-on replacements or attempting deck repair, including deck staining.

So which do you do?

Old Boards New Again – Fix & Stain

As long as your boards are sound you could paint or stain them again.

We had an old front deck that looked bad, however, the boards were in decent shape and didn’t feel replacing them was necessary at the time.  We sanded down rough edges and had professionals come in and re-stain it.

If your deck is more than 16″ off the ground and the boards are not in the best of shape, be leary of board breaking and cautious of being able to carry weight.  Check the beams and joists for stability and if you see cracks vertically, it may be time to replace the base posts.

Warping, Chipping and Splitting Old Boards – Replace

If you see a lot of checking, splitting, and board movement recessing screws, it may be time to replace the deck completely. If you also see screw hole rust, I would be wary of having too much weight on the deck in the meantime. You can try poking boards with an awl or ice pick, is it soft in numerous places? This is a sure sign of rot from water damage. If it was mine, I would replace it. At least the badly split ones.

If the “splits” aren’t very deep (mostly or all the way through the board) then it’s what is referred to as “checking”, which is normal….unfortunately. Checks differ from actual splits in that they aren’t as deep but can be very numerous. If you are using 5/4 x 6 pressure treated southern yellow pine deck boards that are the common decking used many places.

Checking is a normal process of any grade of this type of decking.  The higher grades generally just have fewer knots and imperfections.

Make sure your professional who replaces the boards do a good job by creating a level deck, plumb railings, nice cuts, uses proper nails/screws/brackets all around.  I normally practically insist on a better grade of wood to help with the longevity and lifespan on my deck.

Tight Budget – Fix & Stain

If you are on a tight budget and are unable to replace the deck completely or even some boards, consider going to your local rental center and get a “square buff” sander and give the deck a good sanding.

If any boards are spongy or feel soft,  you will need to replace them as they are not stable or safe.  You can stain and finish to your preference. THIS IS A SHORT TERM SOLUTION. Eventually, you will need the deck boards replaced the longer you wait for the more likely you will be looking at replacing the joist as well (which will increase your spend).