Do-It-Yourself: Resurface Your Deck the Right Way

By Gene Austin
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Saturday, September 26, 2009

Q: My 15-by-20-foot deck is 27 years old and showing its age. I once used a red sealer on it, but most of it is now flaking off. I'd like to resurface the deck the easiest possible way because I plan to do it myself. How about outdoor carpet? What options do I have? --C. Hildenbrandt

A: There are a number of ways to resurface the deck, and the results will depend on how much money you want to spend and how attractive you want the deck to become.

The easiest and most expensive option would be to cover the old wood with wood decking tiles. These are beautifully made and finished hardwood tiles, usually 12 by 12 inches and about 1/2 -inch thick. They interlock and are simply laid on top of another surface such as a deck, patio, porch or balcony. For more information, including illustrations, visit http://www.ezydeck.netand The cheapest tiles I found were about $8 each. If this were my deck, I would do one of two things. If the wood decking is in good condition, I would remove the peeling red finish. If it is loose, pressure washing would probably remove most of the finish; the rest could be removed with paint remover or stain remover, depending on what was put on it. The wood should then be refinished with a semi-transparent stain. If the decking is in poor condition, as it probably is after 27 years, and if the supporting structure is still strong, I would remove the old decking and replace it with new decking. If you do the work yourself, either of these options will be cheaper than decking tiles.

Outdoor carpet is an option, but you should first cover the deck with 3/8-inch or 1/2 -inch exterior plywood.

Q: My stairway has brass brackets to hold the rail in place. I polish the brass, but it tarnishes again quickly. How can I keep it bright? --Kate

A: Manufacturers of brass products often coat them with lacquer to keep them for long periods from tarnishing. You can do the same, using spray lacquer sold at many home centers and paint stores. Clean the brass thoroughly with soap and water, rinse well and then let it dry. If the brass has old lacquer on it, scrub with lacquer thinner to remove it. Mask everything around the brass with plastic sheets and masking tape, then spray on a thin coat of lacquer. Let the first coat dry and apply a second coat, making sure you get all areas of the brass.

Q. I have been checking my rain gutters during rains, and not much water is coming out of the downspouts. In a very heavy rain, water overflows at some points. The gutters or downspouts are not clogged. How can I fix this? --Raymond

A: It sounds like the gutters are not properly sloped so that rainwater runs to the downspouts. You can check this with a level or by running some water into the end opposite the downspout with a hose and watching to see if the it runs down the gutter to the downspout. If the gutters are not properly sloped, you'll need to remove some of the brackets that hold them to the roof eave and drop the downspout end enough to correct the slope. This is tricky work and must be done from a ladder or scaffold. If you have any doubt about your ability to do it safely, hire a contractor.

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QUICK TIP: Caulking around doors and windows to close air gaps is an important energy-saving step, but some do-it-yourselfers neglect to paint the caulk. Newly applied acrylic-latex caulk, which is an excellent choice for outdoor caulk, can pick up dirt and mildew and become black and unsightly, even though the caulk might still be doing its job of sealing gaps. Dirt-mildew pickup can happen even to high-quality acrylic caulks with long warranty periods. The best bet is to wait for the time specified in the instructions -- usually no more than a few hours -- and apply a coat of exterior paint with a small brush. Silicone caulks, which are not as popular for do-it-yourself caulking because they are more expensive and don't have the easy water cleanup of acrylic caulks, can't be painted but are available in several pre-colored formulas as well as a clear version. Silicones hold up well and are a good choice for those who want to avoid painting.

Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to Questions cannot be answered personally.

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