how to extreme

Replace an Old Deck with Composite Decking

Decks, Decks, Decks, Demolition - Directory August 12, 2008 Matt Weber

Replacing Worn-out Wood with Low-Maintenance Composites. 



Decks take a lot of abuse. Due to their very nature, we expect them to withstand brutal attacks from direct sunlight and driving rainwater. And, if not properly preserved and maintained, a wood deck will eventually require a major facelift, as shown in this article.

The sundeck we remodeled for this issue of EHT had certainly seen better days, before the wood succumbed to the perils of direct ultraviolet rays. The deck had been slapped with a clear coat of water preservative, but that was the extent of protection. And being situated on the second-story of a townhouse, there were no trees to shade it from that enormous nuclear cannon in the sky that we call the sun. The 2-by decking boards were no match for the power of Mother Nature, and the lumber had checked, warped and grayed. The deck floor was no longer in the same plane, nails were popping like a pan of Orville Redenbacher, and the cap rail had bowed into the shape of a miniature ski slope. It was time to get out with the old deck boards and in with the new—the “new” being low-maintenance composite decking.

Skil’s Mag 7 worm-drive cirucular saw amde quick work of cutting the 2×8 joists.

Extra Support

The owner of the deck selected Timbertech’s Earthwood brand of composite decking in a “Tropical Teak” color. According to the manufacturer’s instructions, the Timbertech boards required the deck joists to span a maximum of 18 inches, but the deck currently existed with joists on 24-inch centers. This meant I had to nail additional 2-by-8’s between the existing joists.

Each side of this Ladder can be independently adjusted for length, so it can bridge uneven footing and obstructions like the curb and HVAC unit shown here.

A reliable framing nailer and a sturdy, adjustable ladder came in very handy for this chore, because the framing was roughly 10 feet overhead. The deck was also 10 feet deep. I was working alone on this deck remodel, and that meant balancing the 10-foot joists from atop the ladder, holding them in position and using one hand to toe-nail the ends into the ledger boards. If you’re working under similar conditions, then you’ll find it helpful to secure a bucket to the ladder for holding the nailer. And, I’d suggest wearing a toolbelt that includes a back brace, because this balancing act can do a number on your lower lumbar region.

This deck was previously built with a 2-by-2 support strip that ran flush beneath the house side of the joists, and the joists were nailed to the framing and block. However, a much more structurally sound method to connect joists to the ledger board is to use metal joists hangers at each end.

A cabinet jack called a T-Jak proved very handy when aligning the tops of the joists.

A special pry bar called the Tweaker makes it easy to hold the joists in position when fastening.

I also had some difficulty positioning the tops of a few joists flush with the existing deck boards, and I needed to make sure the replacement boards would be going down on framing that’s all in the same plane. My solution was to use a T-Jak, which is a type of cabinet jack (or drywall tool … or decking tool, evidently). However, the T-Jak didn’t reach from the concrete carport to the second-story joists above. Since I was working on a Little Giant ladder configured as an A-frame, I bridged a scrap 2-by-8 board across the rungs to serve as support for the bottom of the jack. This worked well; it gave the T-Jak the reach it needed, and I could crank on its adjustment job until the jack pushed the joist in place. Before fastening it, I made the final adjustments to plumb the joist with a special pry bar called the Tweaker from Mayhew Tools, which clutches the 2-by in a hardened steel grip so you can bend it in position.