CAMBY, Ind. – Building a deck from start to finish will generally cost thousands of dollars, depending on the materials, size, style of deck and who builds it. 

If you already have a deck but it has seen better days, you can make it look a lot better and be more functional without spending as much money.  The first key is to realize you don’t have to start from scratch.

Meet Mike

“The old one was all worn out.  And it was just time for a change.  There were splinters in the old deck, and fixing it up wasn’t going to work anymore,” said Camby resident Mike Lines.

Mike realized what so many home owners have learned, you rarely have to rip out your old deck and start from scratch. 

“The stain on the old deck was all spotted, and it looked terrible.  It was embarrassing so I knew I needed to do something,” said Lines. 

The “before”

Sometimes the easiest thing to freshen up your deck is to replace the boards and railings.  But you also need to make sure the structure underneath is still good and strong.  Mike did that by cutting a couple holes in the deck boards to check out the joists.

“They looked good enough to me, so I went with just replacing the decking, and that seemed to work out well for me,” said Lines. 

Pick your deck, any deck

He chose a composite deck, Trex decking in this case.  It’s more expensive but will last longer than most wood.  It’s easy to clean off and needs very little maintenance.  Choose whatever kind you prefer.

When replacing boards and to prevent injury, try to lay down plywood to walk on.  Otherwise it can be very painful if you slip!

Lay down plywood

“Ya know, my balance, I don’t know how many times I fell between the joists.  Ya know I got really good at falling between the joists,” said Lines.

Mike also didn’t like using the hidden fasteners.  So he simply screwed the boards down using deck screws. When I redid my deck, also using Trex, I did use the hidden fasteners. It’s up to you which one to use.

Mike’s old deck also went from a diagonal board pattern to straight across.  He broke it up away halfway because the boards were not long enough to span the distance of the deck’s width. 

No shame in getting help

Mike also learned something else: sometimes you need help.

“I wasn’t in the position to where I could take the pergola down myself because I would have had to get up on a ladder and that’s not a one man job in my opinion.  So I got a handyman to help me,” said Lines. 

If you’re redoing a deck, do what Mike did and watch “How To” videos.  If you are interested in seeing how to install composite deck boards from start to finish, I watched dozens of videos and this is one of the more detailed examples. The only difference I would make is not to use a hammer to tap the boards together if needed.  It can be done if careful, but it’s safer to use a block of wood between the wood and hammer to prevent possible damage to the edge of the composite boards.

On top of redoing deck boards, Mike took down the old railing and balusters and removed the old pergola.  Mike added a Pergola kit he got from Lowe’s and a swing he and his wife love.

“I really like it.  The instructions for putting it together were very clear.  They even provide you with an app that has step by step instructions.  Sometimes that’s a lot easier to use compared to written instructions,” said Lines.

Reinforcing structure

If you add something like a heavy pergola or a hot tub to your deck, you most likely have to reinforce the structure.  When I redid my deck, I added even more blocking which keeps the boards straight and I also added hurricane ties as well.  It’s simple and inexpensive, but will make your deck much more sturdy.

“You know quite a bit of bracing was needed here below the pergola because there is about 600 pounds of weight that it wasn’t originally designed for.  Even in the instructions for the pergola, they say if you’re going to put it on a composite desk, make sure you put that kind of bracing across the joists,” said Lines. 

The after: what a debonair deck!

Railings and posts are also key. Often times you can simply replace the old ones with newer material. Just make sure it’s well braced and bolted to the deck and into the structure below. Use a spacer block to put up balusters to make the construction go fast with accuracy.

Mike says this was not a fast project.  He took his time, but the difference is remarkable from start to finish.

“I’m ecstatic you know.  I couldn’t be more pleased with it.  When the lights are on in the evening, it really looks nice,” said Lines.