Deck Repairs and Materials
Deck construction at the coast requires different building materials than construction in a dry climate. Because of the high exposure to rain and salt, this part of the house needs to be carefully constructed. In Coos County, we have seen several areas where deck failure can occur: deck structural materials, deck attachments to the house, deck hardware and deck boards.
Deck Structure Deck framing members should be pressure treated with deck posts supported with concrete footings and deck joists installed with the correct hardware and stainless steel flashings. Mistakes in structure can cause decks to weaken over time, but the most dangerous deck failures occur at the connection between house and deck. If the ledger board and deck are not properly attached, the deck can pull away from the house and collapse.
Deck Hardware Galvanized deck nails, screws and joist hangers will rust in this environment. For deck repairs we have done in the last few years, this has been more of a problem than wood rot. As the fasteners begin to corrode from salt air, the deck weakens and can fail. We saw this on a second story deck near the beach, where the joist hangers had disintegrated to almost nothing - any heavy weight and this deck would have come down. To prevent this, we use only stainless steel fasteners, which resist salt corrosion.
Wood Composite Deck Boards A big shock to the building industry, in the last few years, has been the product failure of an industry leader. This well known company produced a wood fiber and plastic deck board that for years was the industry standard. It was popular for the use of recycled materials, and for the manufacturer's guarantee of "no maintenance"; supposedly this product would not warp, stain, fade or decay. There have now been two class action lawsuits settled on this product, with homeowners receiving small compensation for some expensive, failed decks. Homeowners around the country have experienced deterioration of the deck fibers, warping of deck boards, staining, fading and growth of black mold. This was worse in areas with high rain (like Oregon). We have seen that these decks will hold moisture and decay if any object is placed on them (furniture, planters, doormats) and if they are not allowed to dry out. Recently, this company has changed the design and now includes a capped plastic barrier which is supposed to be more durable. Will this work? We don't know.
New Composites In the past few years we have installed a couple of Timber Tech/Azek decks with posts and railing. So far, this product has performed well in the coastal environment. For years, there was a serious design flaw in wood composites: a misunderstanding of the cellular nature of wood - that wood can, and will, absorb moisture, leading to decay. The material used in these new composite deck boards is more plastic and that is a good thing. This product (Azek) has not shown any decay or staining, but we are still cautioning homeowners to not leave objects covering the deck that can hold in moisture (door mats, planters, etc.). This is an expensive product compared to wood, but for some houses it's a good choice.
Wood Decks We still build wood decks. It's the cheapest material and durable over time, if allowed to dry out. Even if it isn't regularly sealed (and allowed to go gray) this is a reliable product for the coastal environment. For those on a budget, we would recommend a cedar deck with cedar posts and railings.