Common Issues With Decks and How to Fix Them

José R. Mendoza
Written by José R. Mendoza
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated June 22, 2022
A metal table and chairs on a wooden deck
Photo: David Papazian/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Get your deck in tip-top shape with these useful tips

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Decks are the to-go gathering spot for most people during the summer. That’s why it’s important to address issues, such as cracked deck boards, water damage, rotting, and fading colors—especially with wooden decks. Provide proper maintenance to help avoid these problems and have yours looking like new all year-round.

Water Damage

Friends greeting each other on cottage deck
Photo: Maskot/Maskot/Getty Images

Many wood decks experience water damage over time due to the high accumulation of moisture that can eventually affect the resistance and strength of boards, which form the platform, and posts, which hold the deck.

Here’s a trick you can use to check if your deck is absorbing too much liquid: Sprinkle some water onto it, and then take a look and see what happens. If the water stops beading and seeps into the wood instead, you'll know that it's time to reseal it. 

When you have a brand-new wooden deck professionally installed, seal it with a water-resistant formula. Check with your contractor that they’ll do this step. A lack of maintenance or resealing can make your wood deck more susceptible to water damage. 

Pro tip: Remember to clean your deck thoroughly and replace any damaged or warped wood pieces before sealing. If you need help with this task, a deck builder near you can assist with the job.

“If you look at the edge of any wood board, you will see the rings, which look like many letter Cs,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board Member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC. “Boards with too much moisture will cup in the direction of the C, which is why professionals install the boards with the C facing down. So if your board is in good shape, it might be a matter of removing it and flipping it over and reinstalling it.”

Wood Rot

You’ll know a part of your patio is rotting when you see small pieces of wood falling apart, either from the edges of your boards or posts. Rot is a common wooden deck problem that tends to occur around corners, railings, and stairs, all areas that are more challenging to seal effectively. 

Take these steps to assess and fix rot problems:

  • Inspect the perimeter around your deck, including boards, posts, joists, beams, staircases, and railings.

  • Identify the damaged area and possible causes. Often, you may discover a gutter issue or a problem with a fixture or sprinkler system funneling water onto a particular area of your deck. 

  • Repair or replace any affected boards, posts, or beams to ensure the deck remains stable.

  • Seal completely to prevent future rotting.

Board Gaps

When you or your pro install wood boards for your deck, they may not be fully dried if they’re made of fresh-cut wood, as this type of lumber tends to have moisture in it. Over time, most different types of wood will shrink as they dry out, which can lead to gaps in your deck. Replace any gaps wider than three-sixteenths of an inch, which can be a falling and tripping hazard. 

One way to prevent shrinkage is to make sure the boards are completely dried. If they are made from fresh wood, they should be installed without spacing to count for shrinkage when they dry. 

Structural Weakness

Structural problems most commonly occur when the deck is not installed or fastened properly, or even if it’s aging. If your balcony feels unstable when you walk on it, this is a sign that the structure needs some repairs.   

Start by inspecting it from underneath to make sure the ledger board, or the piece of wood attached across your home, joist hangers, and post connections are all completely secure. If any are missing or some pieces are loose, now is the time to fix them before it’s too late. This can be a DIY project, or you can call a professional deck contractor to assist you with the project.

Fading Color

A woman renovating a deck by applying protective wood stain
Photo: Radoslav / Adobe Stock

Wood will inevitably lose its color due to weather exposure, use, natural aging, and debris like leaves. Restore some of the original color with a wood cleaner. Another option is to paint or stain with your preferred color. Regardless of what option you choose, reseal the deck again to prevent water damage and other issues.

Protruding Nails

You may see nails popping out of your deck, but don’t be alarmed. This issue is more common in older structures where nails were used to fasten the boards. Nowadays, anti-corrosion screws are used. To fix this issue, you have a couple of options:

  • Hammer the nails back in.

  • Pull the nails out and replace them with deck screws, preferably longer than the nails you have pulled out so they grab some new wood to get a better hold.

“We always specify that decking boards be installed with screws,” says Tschudi. “With changing weather, boards will expand and contract, and nails will wiggle loose, causing dangerous and unsightly nail pops.”

FAQs About Deck Issues

How much does it cost to repair a deck?

The price range to professionally repair a deck is between $700 and $2,600, including the cost of labor and materials. Request your local deck repair contractor to provide a custom quote for your project.

How much does it cost to stain a deck?

The average price to stain a wooden deck is $900.

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