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Question DetailsAsked on 11/17/2014

We would like to have our deck inspected. We know we have a rotten floor board.

This deck is at least 20 years old. We didn't do much with the upkeep in the 8 years that we have lived here. One of the floor boards on the outside portion of the deck is definitely rotten. We need to know if the basics are sound. I don't want to deal with a salesperson, but a reputable contractor who will honestly inspect the deck.

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For a truly independent evaluation, you would need an engineer - probably structural or general civil, but that would cost you several hundred $ which is a lot if you just need redecking, which is highly likely after 20 years under the decking was ground-contact rated (green) treated lumber. Ditto to any wood contacting or embeddedin the ground.


In general, if you go along with a flat tip srewwdriver and push (not stab) it into the framing in the places most likely to rot - deck boards top and where they sit on joists, wood near the ground and right on top of concrete supports, and where the deck boards or other framing touch other wood parts (so the intersection holds moisture). If it sinks in more than it does on the open surface of normally dry or quick-drying wood (like the ledger board against the wall or the underside of steps, for instance), you probably have a problem. If it easily sinks in more than about 1/8-1/4 inch then you probably have rot, which in extreme cases you can even dig out by hand or even put your fist right through.


If you have fuzzy white mildew/mold, black mold, fungusy looking growth on the wood, or wood that looks all cracked and crazed like the following photos, you have decay that is probably significant. Note - if treated timber, a light white powdery coating that is not fuzzy - but looks more like salt stains (which is what it is) is NOT generally cause for concern - that is just some of the salts used for treatment leaching out. Google this search phrase for photos of decay -


images of deck dry rod and mold


It may be, as with many decks, that if the deck boards were painted, especially if painted on all surfaces, that the deck boards may be punky and rotten but the supporting timbers, which are open to drying almost all around, may be fine.


The best way to tell is to pull up the rotten deck boards and a couple of adjacent boards and look for rot on the top of the joists (the horizontal beams the deck boards are fastened to) and look for rot or decay or significant mold. Also, jab in at the bottoms of the support posts, including the in-ground part of wood supports. Board coming off very easily because the nails are not holding is another sign of decay. Some minor decay spots under a couple of deck boards can be fixed by cutting out the top part of the joist to below the rot, treating it, then waterproof gluing (as much to seal water out of the splice as for strength) splicing in another piece of wood with proper splice nailing or bolting. Rotten joists and posts can be replaced one by one in most cases without de-decking, but if replacing more than a few joists or the underlying main beams generally it is cheaper to disassemble the deck, salvage the good materials if appropriate, and rebuild it.


If you are in a situation where all the deck boardsneed to come up for inspection and likely replacement, then I recommend splitting the contract into two parts - first the tearoff of the decking (specifying if good boards to be saved or not for reuse) and removal of rotted structure pieces, then once the scope of the rebuild is defined, negotiating the second phase for reconstruction. Of course, you have to be there during the tearoff to discuss what is throwaway and what is a keeper piece - though in most deck jobs it gets pretty obvious very quickly either that only a few need replacement, or more typically that there are so few intact pieces that all the decking becomes a throw-away.


One other thing- for resale purposes - home inspectors are getting a LTO pickier about code compliance with the new deck codes, both with respect to structure (a bit more conservative than before), with respect to anchors to the house at the ledger board, and with respect to railing and handrail construction for safety, so you might consider getting them brought up to code too if doing a significant reconstruction.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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Hi this is Garrett K., community moderator with Angie's List. We have recently written an article covering this question. You can view that article by following this link. Thanks!

Answered 4 years ago by garrettk




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