6 Signs of Unhealthy Decking - When to Replace a Wooden Deck?

Whether you purchased a new property with a deck or have had your deck for years, it’s a good idea to routinely check for signs of wear and tear. As an extension of your living space that creates continuity between the outdoors and inside, your deck should be a safe and functional area. Here are 6 main signs of unhealthy decking to look out for.

It is important to routinely check for signs of wear and tear. To keep your outdoor space a safe and enjoyable area. Sometimes damage can be restored by replacing deck boards or applying a new finish, but in certain cases your decking will be beyond saving and should be completely replaced. Wood and Composite decking both show signs of damage differently and suffer from different issues.

Wood Decking

A wood deck shows signs of wear and tear differently than a composite deck. This is important as it will affect how you assess and survey the decking for damage. If your deck is made from timber you need to check for warping and insect damage. These are issues associated with a wood deck that’s reaching the end of its useful life. This isn’t a problem for composite decking as the plastic content in composites make them resistant to insects and water (moisture absorption is usually the cause of warping).

Warping and Insect Damage

Wood decking is vulnerable to insect damage and warping. Both are signs that your decking is reaching the ends of its life. Woodworm is a common UK issue for wooden decks. There are three kinds of woodworm in the UK. furniture beetle, house longhorn and deathwatch beetles. If you can see small holes across your decking and furnishings (these are usually in a cluster and often about 1mm wide) then it is likely you have insect damage.
When spotting water damage look for cracking, splitting or fraying. These are common signs of water damage. If boards that are supposed to be straight now have a noticeable sway or curve to them, this is a sign of warping. Both cases are signs that the structural integrity of the wood has been compromised and will need to be replaced.

Widespread Discoloration

Stains and fading won’t necessarily affect the performance of your deck, but it can suggest there are underlying issues. Certain oils and harsh cleaning chemicals can corrode a deck’s material and finish over time.
If you don't know how old a deck is, advanced fading, peeling varnish, patches of discoloration and numerous blemishes indicate that restoration or replacement should be considered. Which brings us nicely to the next symptom...

Old Age

Any exterior building materials are up against the elements and the weather is bound to take its toll on your deck eventually. This will depend on the materials used and the quality of routine maintenance performed. It also depends on the severity of climate fluctuations between hot, cold, rain and sunshine. For timber, routine maintenance is paramount, requiring staining and treating every year in order to protect the longevity of your deck. While composite decking has the protection baked into the material composition of the boards. If your deck is showing signs of age and is over 20 years old, you should begin considering a deck replacement in the near future.

Excessive Board Damage

Localised damage to a deck's surface may typically be repaired by replacing a few boards. However, when the damage affects the majority of the surface, the deck will almost certainly need to be replaced. For timber decking, wood rot, water infiltration, and mould are the most prevalent causes of surface damage. Soft or disintegrating wood, obvious mould development or severe cracking and splintering are all things to look for. Rotting wood is a serious problem. Wood rot spreads fast and causes your deck's structure to weaken over time. One of the best features of composite decking is that it will not rot.

Questionable Substructure

Joists are essential for keeping your deck up and ensuring its stability. If your joists are showing indications of decay and rot, it's time to replace them. Replacing joists without ripping up a large amount of your deck might be tricky. That’s why we recommend Manticore plastic lumber as a joist material as it is impervious to water and will not rot! At the end of the day, if your deck doesn't feel stable, it probably isn't. If it feels spongy or if you find soft spots that give when you walk on them, it's definitely time to replace.

Unstable Railings

Loose railings are not always an indicator that your deck needs to be completely replaced, but they do pose a safety hazard that should be addressed. Wobbly railings are dangerous because people tend to lean on them. If the only location on your deck where you detect rot, wriggling, or damage is your railing, it can most likely be replaced without requiring a whole deck renovation.

Rusted or Missing Hardware

You should inspect your deck to ensure that none of the fittings are loose, missing, or rusted. Water can easily collect around the head of a screw and eventually moisture will seep through to the decking board itself. This is more likely to happen if your deck is older, but improper care or poor material installation can also be culprits of damaged fixings. Unsecured boards can become safety hazards that cause people to trip, if you notice wobbly boards due to missing fixings when walking across your deck, you may need a replacement.

When to replace decking

Whenever a deck begins to feel unstable or unsafe it is important to start thinking about replacing it, to ensure your outdoor area stays a safe space for you and your family. It is also time to look into a new deck when you have any unrepairable or structure damage

Considerations for Your New Deck

Take some time to consider what your home and lifestyle demand in a deck before deciding to completely rebuild it. If you have struggled with wood rot and the laborious maintenance that is associated with timber then it may be time to consider composite decking. While it is a bigger financial outlay at the start, you save for years on maintenance and labour costs. Composite decking is also anti-slip, non-rot, does not splinter or warp and comes with a warranty of up to 25 years. Making it a more cost-effective solution in the long run.
Interested in transforming your garden or replacing your timber decking ? View our
composite decking ranges here.