Is Your Deck Living on Borrowed Time?

As you relax on deck with your favorite beverage and bask in the glow of a sun-splashed summer day, it’s natural to think you’re in heaven (Iowa style). This is living the dream.

“The cure for a day spent staring at a computer screen is sitting on your deck, watching the sunset, glass of rose’ in hand,” House Beautiful’s Brett Martin writes.

However, no paradise lives and lasts forever.

Camelot. Atlantis. Alas, even one day, Hawaii. Legend and true time has shown us even the greatest of paradises have expiration dates. And if you notice the wood of your aging deck is rotting in spots, peeling, chipping or fading, or has visible safety risks like wobbly railings and deteriorating posts, your deck actually could be living on borrowed time.

“Decks can be a haven for relaxation, alfresco dining, and outdoor entertainment – so long as they’re in decent condition,”’s Melissa Graham writes. “Unstable posts, creaky boards, or rot can make a deck unsafe and are clear signs that it needs some TLC.”

Nobody said living the dream is free. Just like people, decks need checkups and tuneups to keep standing healthy and hosting your family’s summertime fun. Remember, Mother Nature puts decks through the weather ringer. Decks endure hot Iowa suns, pouring rain, ice and snow during the average year.

Repair or Replace?

Before diving into deck repairs, first get an answer to the essential money question: Does my deck need to be replaced entirely? Whether you need to repair or replace your deck is dependent on the deck’s age, material and extent of the damage.

The Deck Replacement Rule: If the cost of repairs is more than half the cost of a deck replacement, replacing the deck is the best option.

Traditional wooden decks have a good run of 10-15 years. Composite and caped polymer decks (which have become the U.S.’s deck material of choice and don’t require staining or sealing) can safely operate for up to 50 years.

“If the deck is nearing the end of its lifespan and showing signs of significant rotting or damage in multiple areas, deck replacement might be the best solution,” Graham writes.

The Inspection Zone

You don’t have to be a professional deck doctor to give your deck a detailed checkup. Start with the main areas of your deck to determine it’s healthy and ready to handle another hot Iowa summer.

Begin at the ledger board: the long, pressure-treated board that attaches to your home. If you discover significant rot or damage, this could lead to a deck collapse.

Ledger boards can be treated, but not if rot has spread to more of the deck or if the deck’s stability has become compromised.

Next, head underneath your deck to inspect its support system. Beams and joists are prone to water damage over time. The quicker you catch underdeck water issues, the easier it is to repair these pieces and save your deck from the scrap yard.

Finally, inspect the fascia boards, posts, flashing, railing and deck surface. If more than one area is displaying signs of damage (be sure to also examine for termite damage), it’s time to get estimates on a new deck.

On the Bright (Less Expensive) Size

Small deck repairs, like filling holes, cracks or staining boards, are easy DIY weekend projects. For larger jobs, like replacing splintered deck boards or installing new deck railings, it’s best to make a call to the bullpen and call in a professional. Deck installers are schooled at making your deck safe and secure for you, your family and friends.

Simple DIY homeowner deck repairs run around $100 if the structural integrity of the desk is in good standing, Home Guide reports. A deck with more extensive health issues usually runs around $1,500, which includes replacing the railings and boards. Most extensive repair projects average $2,500, Home Guide notes.

In contrast, reports the national average home deck replacement cost this summer as $1,997 with a range between $848 and $3,316 depending on the deck’s size and material.

Per Angi, the average cost to build a new deck ranges between $4,100 and $11,700 (around $30 to $60 per square foot). Demolishing and removing old decks range anywhere between $5 and $15 per square foot.

A contractor can give you full customized cost estimates and comparisons for your deck.

The one thing you can’t afford to do this summer? Sitting back and doing nothing on a deck in need. For the dangers of having a sick deck go far beyond safety concerns.

“Never put off maintenance or repairs, because at some point you will be ready to sell the home and it might not sell due to poor maintenance of the deck,” Home Guide’s Tom Grupa stresses.

‘A Better Quality of Life’

Decks allow us to live the summertime dream: Barbecues, birthday parties or simply weekend afternoon relaxing.

“A deck provides a better quality of life in your backyard,” notes.

But relaxing on an unhealthy deck working and living on borrowed time is no way to live the Iowa summertime dream.

“A deck should be a comfortable space to enjoy those summer evenings with family and friends, not a squeaky or unstable surface,”’s Brie Greenhalgh writes. “… Don’t let a sagging deck bring you down. Plan your deck repair so you can enjoy your evenings on a beautiful deck again.”

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