Building a deck is a big project, and whether you decide to take it on yourself or enlist the help of a professional, knowing what a decking project entails is essential to a successful install. 

In part two of our decking series, we’re going to share just that. We’re joined by one of the greater Seattle area’s premier deck builders: former co-founder of West Coast Decks, Joel Skillingstead. Joel has been building decks in the Pacific Northwest since 1990. With more than 30 years of experience building, overseeing, and waterproofing deck projects large and small, Joel is one of the best resources out there. 

In today’s episode, Joel and I talk about what you should take into consideration when deciding if you should resurface or rebuild your deck. Watch our discussion in the video above or read below for a recap. 

Deck resurfacing vs. rebuilding—what’s the difference?

Resurfacing a deck is replacing only the visible boards that make up the surface of the deck. In this process, the deck footprint and foundation remain. Rebuilding a deck is replacing the deck from the ground up—meaning the existing deck is completely torn down and new framing is built. 

Should you repair or replace your deck?

There are several factors that play into the answer to this question, but the first thing to consider is age. Typically, if your deck is less than 15 years old, and was built properly (using pressure-treated lumber and end cut solution), resurfacing is a viable option. 

If your deck was built more than 20 years ago, rebuilding is usually the more economical choice—especially here in the Pacific Northwest, where manufactured decking is becoming one of the most popular decking surfaces. Manufactured decking can have up to a 30-year warranty, and the chances of a 20-year-old foundation lasting another 30 years are slim. In the long run, you’ll generally save money by completely rebuilding and avoiding another deck project when your foundation expires.

Another aspect to consider is joist spacing. Most manufactured deck products require joists to be spaced 16 inches on-center, whereas many older decks were built with 24-inch joist spacing. Some people with older decks will opt to avoid a complete rebuild by adding a new joist in between the existing boards, but this shortcut can breed bad results. Mixing new lumber with older boards means the moisture levels in your joists are out of sync, leading to uneven joists and an uneven deck surface. 

If you’re considering resurfacing a wood deck with manufactured decking, you’ll want to take a good look at your joists once the old decking is removed to make sure they’re perfectly flush, so as not to create an uneven deck surface. With wood decking products, uneven joists are less noticeable since wood can carry more stress. Manufactured decking, on the other hand, is much less forgiving—if the joists below are the least bit uneven, you'll end up with a visibly uneven surface.

Can you add on to your deck during a resurfacing project?

The answer to this question depends on the height of your addition. If you want to add square footage to your existing deck at its existing level, you may want to consider replacing the existing framing as well. This is because the additional framing required for the extension needs to blend with the existing framing to ensure an even surface. It can be hard to guarantee the framing for the new addition won’t dry over time and create a noticeable change in the level of the deck surface.

On the other hand, adding a second level to an existing deck during a resurfacing project is viable, since the addition wouldn’t need to be flush with the existing surface. Rebuilding stairs is usually viable with a resurface as well since stairs don’t need to be tied into the deck surface.

Is resurfacing a deck cheaper than rebuilding?

The state of your deck foundation will determine whether resurfacing is more or less economical than rebuilding. With a resurfacing project, your contractor will likely base their bid on a preliminary inspection, then do another inspection once they’ve removed the deck surface. If they find issues underneath the surface, the price of the project will increase, sometimes ending up in a full rebuild.

As you've probably gathered from our discussion, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of repairing versus replacing your deck. If you have more questions on this topic, stop by one of our nine locations to talk to a decking specialist. For more decking insights, check out our post on deck permitting and how to choose a deck surface.