DIY

Repair or replace deck planks; helpful tips for a smooth job

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Isn’t it a little ironic that we should even HAVE to replace deck planks?! I mean, I thought “pressure-treated lumber” was not supposed to rot or otherwise be damaged by the elements?

Seems like we can’t win, doesn’t it?

Actually, I must say that overall, pressure treated materials outlast non-pressure treated (other than redwood or cedar, perhaps). However, there comes the time when one or two boards may need to be replaced; either because they were subjected to particularly extreme wear, or there may have been a section of a board that just didn’t get treated properly, or there may be other reasons. In any case, to replace a deck plank is not usually too difficult, if you exercise patience and persistence!

First of all, determine whether or not you want to replace ENTIRE planks or PARTIAL planks. I have done it both ways, and I will discuss both ways in this article.

TOOLS & MATERIAL NEEDED:

Cordless (preferably) drill/driver with phillips screwdriver bit.

Carpenter’s square

Measuring tape

Marking pencil

Hammer

Chisel

Screwdrivers

Circular saw

New deck plank(s)–be sure to measure the existing planks; length, width and thickness; replace with same dimensional materials.

Note: If you wish to stain the new planks prior to installing, be sure you have the stain material and brushes on your list of materials, too.

Deck screws (long enough to adequately anchor new plank to joists)

Safety glasses

Gloves

Dust mask

SAFETY:

Follow all manufacturers’ guidelines for safe and proper handling of tools and materials.

At minimum, you should wear safety glasses, gloves and dust mask.

Use extra caution when working with rotating, sharp tools and objects.

If the plank to be replaced is in a highly traveled route, alert building occupants, post signs and install caution tape around the work area to alert any who might attempt to pass through that work is being done and there is danger of injury.

PREPARATION:

If you wish to pre-stain your new deck plank, do that at least one day prior to scheduling the actual replacement work, to minimize messy handling conditions.

Clear any obstacles from the deck area (on and around it) which may create hazards when working on it.

To replace ENTIRE deck planks:

If the existing deck planks are screwed to the joists, use a drill/driver with the proper drill bit to extract the screws.

Avoid putting too much torque on the screws when trying to remove them…to prevent breaking them off. If any do break, you may need to chisel the wood from around the remainder of the screw, then use vise-grip pliers to grip and unscrew it manually. Likewise, if any screw-heads are sunk into the wood too deeply, you may need to chisel out around them to be able to unscrew them.

Once all screws are removed, take the plank off the joists.

If the plank is still in one piece, you may use it as a template to cut the new one to the correct size.

If it is not, simply measure the length of another plank still on the deck, and cut the new plank to the required length.

Place the new plank into the void left from removal of the damaged one.

Drive two or three screws at each joist location for a firmly anchored replacement plank.

Finish as needed.

To replace PARTIAL deck planks:

Tools, materials, safety and preparation outlined above are typical for PARTIAL deck plank replacement, except:

You will need a drill bit to drill clearance holes for your deck screws at either end of the replacement plank to prevent it from splitting, as you will need to drive the deck screws quite close to the ends of the new replacement plank section.

New deck plank might be a piece leftover in your garage, instead of having to buy new. Just ensure that the dimensions are the same as the existing deck planks.

PARTIAL plank replacement instructions:

Mark the damaged deck plank along the centerlines of the nearest joists beyond both ends of the damaged area of the deck plank.

Remove any screws or nails which may interfere with saw-cutting along these marks.

Remove any other screws between the two marks. If deck plank is nailed, you may choose to wait until you have freed the section of plank before removing any nails, as you can use the plank itself for leverage.

Using a circular saw with the blade set only for the thickness of the deck plank, “plunge” the blade into the plank width along the lines marked in prior steps…use caution…cut as close to, but do not allow blade to cut INTO, adjacent planks on either side. To finish the cuts, use a sharp wood chisel and hammer, or a reciprocating saw held at an angle, to avoid cutting into the joist.

Remove the damaged section of deck plank; prying remaining nails (if so anchored) using the plank as leverage.

Measure the length between your two cuts, and cut your replacement plank to the required length.

Place the replacement plank section into the void left from removal of the damaged section.

Drill three clearance holes across each end of the replacement plank so the plank will not split when you anchor it. These holes must be close to the ends of the plank, as they need to ensure the screws will catch the joist below.

Drive three screws at each joist location along the length of the replacement plank.

Finish as needed.

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