Replacing Wood Decking with Composite

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My in-laws asked if I would consider replacing their wood decking with composite. The wood had several patches over the years where it had become rotten and one or two boards were replaced.

I started off taking some measurements and checking things like the existing joist spacing and stair construction. The joists were already at 16 inches on center meeting the requirements for composite laid perpendicular to the joists. Being a 10′ by 30′ rectangle made the job fairly easy. Especially after the complete deck build a couple years ago.

Once I did some math and thought through the layout, railing cap, stairs etc., I put together the materials list for my Mother-in-Law to purchase. We waited just over a week for delivery and then got started. I arranged for some help from my Nephew and Son.

Demo

Demolition started with removing the furniture and plants off of the deck. The bar height fire table was particularly awkward so it had to come apart. With the deck clear we started removing boards. While I pried them up, my Nephew flattened the nails so we could fit more in the back of my truck. While I’ve loaned it out several times, this was only the second time I’ve used my decking removal pry bar thingy. This thing is worth every penny (I am receiving no compensation for this recommendation).

Mid-Demo

Disposal

With all the boards removed and the nails flattened we began loading my truck. I cut the long boards in half so they didn’t hang way out and we still managed to fit all of it in one load.

There was a dump that allows general public disposal just 20 minutes away, so we headed out, got weighed (6,140lbs), paid the single load disposal fee of $115 and started chucking wood. They had 20 yard dumpsters set up we could just back up to and empty the truck.

We grabbed lunch, because who isn’t hungry after a trip to the dump? Swung into home depot for some supplies and headed back to start pulling nails.

Nail Removal

Just a couple nails…..

Decking nails typically have a twisted shaft, this helps them stay put and makes it harder to remove. We used the big three foot pry bars for this, the short ones will work but require extra effort that can lead to slipping and smashing a knuckle. It took a couple hours to get them all out. There were a few screws and other types of nails used on some of the patched boards, but mostly twisted nails.

A few small pieces of decking in the bucket but it’s nearly half full, or more than half empty depending on your perspective. Either way, it’s around 2 gallons worth of nails.

Keeping Everyone Busy

The existing stairs did not allow reuse of the stringers for the composite. While I removed them I had my Nephew move the pile of decking from the grass to under an awning.

I matched the existing outer stringers for overall rise/run and angle and laid out the center stringer. This took a couple attempts to get correct before I cut them out.

Blocking

The layout for the new decking required a plank centered at the doorway to divide the deck. This was approximately 18″ off the center of the deck but far more aesthetically pleasing in my opinion. In order to run this board parallel to the joists we had to install blocking. I showed my Nephew how to measure, cut and install these. He did an excellent job of it….honestly wasn’t sure if that would work or not. This ended our first, very long day.

We needed additional support for the ends of the planks where they meet up with this center plank. The next morning my Nephew was busy but my Son was available so I showed him how to do this same measuring, cutting and installing for these additional supports. In hindsight, I could have doubled up some full length joists and installed them at either side of the center plank. This would give the same support for both the center plank and the ends of the rest of the decking.

Stairs Rebuilt

I was able to finish off the stairs and reattach the railing. With the extra support that is required for the composite boards, these ended up being VERY solid.

I also replaced a rotten end post and a railing spindle that broke during removal. The ‘fresh’ pressure treated wood will need to dry out for a week or so before it can be painted white to match the rest of the deck.

Decking

Once the stairs were completed we were able to carry planks up to the deck. We installed the center plank and opted to work from the railing in towards the house. We got a good number of these installed on the second day before calling it quits.

The third day was a short work day due to some other obligations, mainly just installed more decking.

Finishing Touches

The 4th and final day was also a short one. I finished off installing the deck boards and installed the railing cap. While test fitting the stair railing cap I found the post at the top of the steps was too short with the thicker composite on the railing. The post also had a number of screws and nails in it at the base where its sturdiness had been improved over the years. I had just enough 4×4 left to add an inch and a half to the height of the post. The in-laws were also talking about getting a new post cap, so I cut some scrap composite into four triangles to make a matching cap. They mount their flag pole on top of this post, so this will work well.

After installing the doggy gate I grabbed the heat gun and smooth faced hammer to hide the screw holes in the railing caps, steps and boards along the house.

Finished and Ready for Furniture

Once it was complete, my Nephew helped me move the furniture back on the deck. We also reassembled the fire table. I can’t wait to see it with a fresh coat of white paint on the railing, posts and stairs.

I did fail to get a photo with the lake in the background….

About Post Author

MyEndless

Husband, Dad, Engineer and Saw Dust Aficionado
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2 thoughts on “Replacing Wood Decking with Composite

  1. How wonderful! Now we have the whole job cemented in history! You did an incredible job, Brian and we love it (and you) so much! Thank you!

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