Can I Reuse My Old Decks Framing?

“Can I reuse my old decks framing?” is probably one of the most asked questions we receive when speaking with customers.

Sometimes the decking or railing is failing before the framework is showing major signs of rot. This could be due to many different factors. The joists are installed vertically for strength, but this also allows water to run down the sides of the boards, instead of pooling on top. The framing is also usually made of pressure-treated lumber, which can outlast a cedar deck. A lot of times, however, the deck’s framing just simply looks to be in better condition, when it’s not.

Many factors come into play as to why the frame may look to be better condition than it really is. There are a couple key things we look for when inspecting a deck. Things like:

  • Are there cracks anywhere in the framework?

  • Does the top of the joist (where the decking is sitting) look wider than the rest of the joist?

This can be an easy way to tell if the top of the joist has cracks and splits from water soaking into the board from the screw/nail holes holding down the decking.

  • Is anything soft to the touch?

There should never be soft spots anywhere on your deck’s framing.

  • Have the ends started to decay at all?

Rot usually starts at the end grain. This could be at the ends of the joists, ends of the rim, or ends of the support posts.

  • Were the support posts buried in the ground or in concrete?

This is the most common mistake we see, especially in older decks. This is now against building codes but was common many years ago. This will trap moisture in the post, and never allows the post to dry out.

We also see decks that don’t have any obvious framing problems. You know, the ones that just look a little weathered, but don’t show signs of rot or decay? This is where determining the issues becomes more challenging. Many times, the problems start on the inside of the board, caused by the small screw or nail holes in the top of the joists or beams allowing water to get inside. The water is trapped there, decaying the wood. Sometimes it’s due to insects, such as ants, creating homes or nests inside the wood.

We most often advise customers to start fresh. Not only is that the best way to ensure your new deck is completely sound and up to code, but you as the homeowner will KNOW it’s being built and installed correctly, from the ground up. When trying to save an old deck's framework, it takes longer to remove old decking and railings in a way that does not damage any of the framing, in turn increasing labor costs. We also need to square up the old deck again and fix any damaged areas we see, which also adds to the cost. It can be almost the same price as just starting fresh with all new framing.

Another important consideration is safety and building codes. If you want any of the low-maintenance composite or PVC boards, we highly recommend new framing, for a few important reasons. First, and probably the most important is the joist spacing. Composite decking manufacturers recommend spacing joists every 12” on center, and it’s a must with PVC decking. This prevents your decking from sagging, while also allowing the framing to support the extra weight of the composite deck boards. To support the weight of the deck, the footings need to be certain sizes (depending on the load they carry). Most existing deck piers are undersized and may not be dug below the frost line. Footing sizing is critical for both safety and support.

One last thing to consider is our low maintenance decks usually come with a 30–50-year manufacturer’s warranty. The last thing most homeowners want is to have a beautiful 30–50-year product installed, only to have to rip everything up because the old framing only lasted another five or six years.

In short, new framing and footings will also give us a better surface to install your new decking to. Your deck will be significantly safer and more attractive, for many years of worry-free outdoor living enjoyment.

We would love an opportunity to demonstrate why we believe we are the best composite deck builder in Minnesota. Call us or fill out the form on our website to schedule an appointment today. We are working in compliance with all COVID-19 guidelines for construction.