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How to Fix That Love-Hate Relationship With Your Deck

Most homeowners have an uneasy relationship with their decks. While they might have a beautiful home, they sometimes wonder why their deck has to look like something Huck Finn hitched to it after floating down the Mississippi River.They may never be at peace that it is completely right – maybe some of the boards have rotted, the top rails are dried-out and cracked, and that wobbly stair rail – is someone going to get hurt by that someday? And then there’s the guilt. If only they stained it its first year…or every five years…or ever at all.

Well, I have good news — you don’t have to love-hate your deck. You can just love it. But, it helps to make sure you’ve got the right one, or convert it to the right one when major repairs are in order. Here’s how to think about decks so you can stop thinking about, and start enjoying, yours.

Basically, there are four types of decks:

1. Pressure-Treated – This is the most common and the least expensive deck. They’re made of pine specially processed to preserve its life. The wooden boards look just OK — but not great – and look better if stained. But, these decks do have two big advantages that make them the most popular – the boards are inexpensive and they last a long time because they resist cracking, rotting, and drying-out. Nevertheless, they do need to be stained about every 5 years, which Home Depot tells us costs the average homeowner $600-700 each time.

2. Cedar — This type of deck is particularly attractive when new because of cedar’s reddish color and textured wood grain. But, it’s all downhill from there. When they rot, the boards can look very bad and they are expensive to replace. Moreover, if you like that reddish color, experts say you really ought to apply a transparent sealant EVERY year. Yuk.

3. Painted – Typically constructed of standard lumber, painted decks blend-in with the color of the house better than any other deck. The problem is that to keep it from rotting, every square inch must be covered with paint. Given these painted surfaces are subject to weather and foot traffic, this ongoing maintenance project can get old fast.

4. Composite – These decks are modern technology’s answer to the problems of all of the above decks. The boards in these decks can look just like wood (or even better!). But, they are not wood, and are instead composed of many ingredients (e.g. plastic) that do not rot or dry out. They essentially require no maintenance other than an occasional powerwashing and always look pretty much as they did on the day they were built. In our opinion, they are the best choice for those willing to make a higher upfront investment.

As you may have figured out, our favorites are on either end — pressure-treated decks for their good value and long life, and composites for their sustained beauty and low maintenance. Not surprisingly, we routinely encourage those with the other two deck types to convert to them when major repairs are in order.

Call Fix St Louis if you want to build or repair any of these decks. We would also be glad to lend you samples of composite deck materials so you can figure out if the extra investment makes sense for you!