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3 Easy Deck Repair Tasks Any Homeowner Can Do

Keep your deck in tip top shape! These three easy deck repair tasks will fix small problems, such as popped nails or curled boards, that may have occurred over time.

warped deck board before and after


After a few years, even a new deck can start to show wear and tear. These deck repair tips will help keep it looking its best for years to come!

One of the first big projects we tackled when we bought our house was the deck. The original deck was in such bad shape, you could stick a screwdriver through the joists! The new deck is double the size, and is made of cedar.

new deck on back of house

The next summer, after the cedar had "weathered" for six months, I took on the task of staining the deck. I learned a LOT from that experience, and vowed that next time it would go smoother.

view of deck before deck repair, stained with TWP

Two years have gone by, and the deck is looking kinda sad. The light stain color has turned a dirty yellow and scuffed away in the high traffic areas. Nails are popping up everywhere, making walking on the deck in bare feet a painful experience.

popped nail in cedar deck board | deck repair tasks

And some of the boards are cupping up at the ends, creating a tripping hazard.

warped deck board | deck repair tips

Before I go through all the effort of re-staining, I took the time to do a little bit of deck repair. By fixing these problems now, we'll be able to enjoy our outdoor space for years to come!

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Deck Repair Tools

These deck repair tasks can easily be done by someone with minimal handy skills. All you need are a few simple tools.

Tip #1 - Hammer down slightly raised nails with nail set

Run your finger over the surface of each nail. If the nail is above the surface of the wood but you can't get under the head to pull it out, you can hammer it back down.

nail head in cedar deck board before deck repair

But don't go around smacking them with a hammer! Use a nail set to force the nail back into place without damaging the surrounding wood.

Select a nail set that is slightly smaller than the nail head. Place the tip in the center of the nail, and strike the other end with your hammer. The force will drive the nail back into the wood without leaving a mark!

holding red nail set on nail head

Now you can't feel the nail when you walk on it with bare feet!

nail head in cedar deck below the surface of the wood

Tip #2 - Replace popped nails with screws

Sometimes I would come across a nail that was protruding a good quarter of an inch above the surface of the deck. Ouch!

popped nail in cedar deck board

If I hammered these nails back down, they would probably work their way up again within a year or so. The wood fibers around the nail loosened with the changing weather, allowing the nail to move freely. Instead, I replaced these toe-stubbing, foot-stabbing nails with deck screws!

To remove the offending nail without damaging the surrounding wood, you'll want to use a nail puller like this. One end is thin enough to slip under the nail head and pop it up. If you're having a hard time getting it underneath, it might be better to nail it back down using the method described above. You don't want to gouge the wood trying to pull it out!

nail puller clamped around raised nail in deck

Once you've pulled it out an inch or so, switch to the other end of the nail puller or use a pry bar to pull it out the rest of the way. I used a wood shim to protect the wood from any indentation caused by the force of the pry bar.

pry bar end of nail puller used to pull out raised nail from deck

With the nail removed, you now have the perfect pilot hole for your screw. I used 2 1/2" Deckmate screws in a color that matches the stain I plan to use later. Sink the head of the screw slightly below the surface.

screwing deck screw into board on deck during deck repair

Tip #3 - Fix Curled or Warped Boards

There are a few spots where two long deck boards meet on top of a joist. If the joint is slightly off-center, the nails miss the joist completely. (Please ignore the ugly, gross underside of our deck!)

underneath of deck with nails that missed the joist

Over time, the end of the board that wasn't secured starts to curl up. This one is right in front of our sliding glass door and has caused more than its fair share of stubbed toes and stumbles!

warped boards before deck repair

Hammer the nails up from the underside, then pull them the rest of the way with the pry bar. Then, cut a scrap of cedar 2 x 4 long enough to span the curled board and the two on either side of it. Attach it to the joist with deck screws. Keep the top edge tight against the underside of the boards on either side of the curled one.

2X4 screwed in under warped board

Now you have something to attach the board end to! Screw the curled board down into the new piece, going slow so it doesn't split. Voila, no more tripping hazard! I'll fill those old holes before staining.

warped board straightened out by deck repair

Next Steps

With these deck repair tasks complete, I'm ready for my next steps!

Deck Cleaner

As you can see from these photos, the wood definitely needs a good cleaning! There's two ways to go about cleaning the wood of your deck and getting it ready for stain.

If your deck is in really bad shape, or you want to change the color, you'll need to use a chemical deck cleaner and brightener to bring it back to its natural state. A power washer is required for this process to remove the top layer of damaged wood fibers and old stain.

deck cleaner before and after

But if your deck is just dirty and has some mildew from a wet winter, you can use a homemade deck cleaner with a scrub brush instead. This simple cleaning solution is made with ingredients you probably already have under the kitchen sink. It does a great job bringing all that grime to the surface, so you can rinse it away with the hose.

Stain the Deck

After that, your clean deck needs a new coat of stain. Here are my tricks for staining a deck fast!

deck stain before and after

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warped deck board before and after

Kristi

Friday 1st of June 2018

Did you know that when building the deck, each board should be examined at the end grain so that when observing the half-circle, the hump stays on top, like the setting sun. Otherwise, if laid like a U, the sides cup up. Same goes for other projects, picnic table, etc. Also, over the years, having learned a better, longer lasting method and results, most have changed to ONLY EVER using deck screws and power drills.

Vince

Thursday 3rd of May 2018

I had the same problems. Solution: Check out the Camo System for screwing in from the side edges of the deck boards. Awesome! No more nail pops... good luck!

Toni

Saturday 29th of July 2017

So many helpful tips, that nail puller is brilliant. Also it's very smart to install the brace under the deck where you needed extra nailing surface. The nail punch is such a great tool, we had to use one all over our house to set some nails in our subfloor before we sheathed over it for our hardwood.

Susanne

Friday 28th of July 2017

These are great tips! We are going to be working on our sad little front deck this weekend. I am definitely going to use your method for putting popped up nails back where they belong!

Tonya

Friday 28th of July 2017

Great tips but I'm kinda glad we have a screened in porch instead of a deck. Desks do require a lot of maintenance!!! Although screened in porches come with their maintenance issue's also.

Vineta

Saturday 29th of July 2017

When we were planning out the new deck, we thought about putting a roof over it to make it more useful during the rainy but warm months. Maybe when we add on to the upstairs, we'll tack it on. It IS a lot of work keeping it looking nice!

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