Resurface an Existing Deck vs Building a New Deck

Many customers have come to us initially hoping that their existing pressure treated wood deck can be updated by removing the top deck boards and railings and putting new composite decking and railings on (commonly called a resurface or a reskin). It’s a good question and sometimes can be a cost-effective approach that works best for you.

Usually, there is no doubt that the existing top deck boards and railings are in bad shape and need to be removed. Deck boards are split and warped. The railings are twisted and rotten. The stair treads are unstable and pulling apart. Homeowners will usually tell us that “the existing structure is fine” trying to be helpful, which we appreciate, but have learned is usually not the case when a trained set of eyes examines it.

Most “builder grade” decks that were built at the time the house was built are rarely good candidates for a resurface. The main reason we see is that they just are not built well to begin with. They usually don’t meet current building codes and can border on being unsafe.  Years ago, builders would use the cheapest labor and the cheapest materials and methods when building decks because they know no one ever buys a shiny new house for the deck. It’s a means to an end on the other side of the kitchen door to get the property sold. Sometimes we do see a builder grade deck that someone put some heart into, but it’s very rare.

Composite decking and railing products are not inexpensive, but their value comes in the performance and looks they provide….not to mention the labor savings and hassle of not maintaining it every year. Installing all this beautiful new product over a bad skeleton doesn’t make financial sense when you consider that the existing deck framing is most likely sagged, warped and uneven. Those flaws will usually carry over though new decking and railing.

Some of the things we look for in considering a resurface are joist size, beam spacing, footing capacity, house attachment, and stability of construction. Sometimes we can make a few modifications and enhancements to what’s on the house to be able to make the resurface work for you.

Another thing to consider is that usually, builder decks are simple rectangles with a staircase that runs out in front of the deck blocking the view from the patio below. By rebuilding, you’ll end up with a modern, efficient deck design with carefully thought out design features and a staircase in a place that makes sense relative to how you use your yard. At CMR we strive to design your deck with your lifestyle in mind so that traffic flows well from your house, across the deck, and down into your backyard.

In our opinion, it is better for the long term value of your home to start from scratch with an entirely new deck. You won’t be limited by the plain design of the existing deck and you will have a much better quality frame for the deck that is code compliant and safe. That being said, in certain circumstances a resurface may be a good option for you. We’ll be happy to guide you through that decision process.