Restoring neglected decks


The house came with two decks. One was 10 years old and the other about 6 years old. They were severely neglected.
The previous owner did zero maintenance on the house (hence the lower price of the house). The deck was nearly unusable. Lots of nails sticking up; some quite high. All the boards were badly cupped and many were splintered so walking barefoot was not safe.
I chemical cleaned and pressure washed the deck which did get rid of a lot algae and many black stains but the surface was still so bad that it was an eyesore (especially when it got wet) and very uncomfortable to walk on even with shoes.
This is what the stairs looked like. The photographs doesn't do a good job of revealing the cupping or the areas where the boards were heavily splintered. But you can see that under the bench to the left of the stairs where the wood has turned totally black.
http://i15.tinypic.com/2yvjq08.jpg
And here's what the condition of "newer" lower deck looked like. Again, the photographs seem to disguise the extent of the neglected condition of the boards.
http://i15.tinypic.com/4bock1d.jpg
Knowing that I could never afford anyone to restore the deck and I didn't want to rent any heavy equipment I decided to do the job with a belt sander that I already owned.
Here's the work in progress using 24 grit blue sandpaper. I had to pound down several hundred nails. My helper points out where further work needs to be done. Good supervisor and doesn't talk too much.
http://i10.tinypic.com/3ycxabn.jpg
Here's another picture of the stairs and lower deck in progress.
http://i14.tinypic.com/44hajo1.jpg
First pass at sanding the lower deck. After using 24 grit sandpaper, I sanded the entire deck with 60 grit sandpaper. No photographs of the finished work.
http://i9.tinypic.com/316vqdk.jpg
After living with the ugly black boards, I couldn't bear the thought of putting on a dark stain so I used Cabot 2752 Golden Tan. Two coats are absolutely required. In the shade at around 70 degrees, I used a roller to quickly distribute the stain (one board at a time), then, and this is critical, I used a wide paint brush in one long stroke down the entire board to evenly smooth out the stain. I used 4 gallons at $28/gallon.
Even though Cabot claims that the finish will last 3 years, with the heat and scorching sun here I expect that I'll have to recoat once/year. Coating goes quite quickly once you get into the rhythm.
So now I have a deck that's easy and safe to walk on barefoot. The project took about a week.
I do, however, wonder why so many people have decks to begin with. Where I live hardly anyone ever uses the deck regardless of the sun or temperature.
Have decks become decorative like shutters?
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You sure did a lot of work there' but looks good. If the nails start to pop again, use deck screws and they will hold much better.
As for using them, from about mid May to mid September, we use ours most every day. Shaded in the afternoon, we cook out there and relax after dinner. Here in New England, the summers are generally moderate. If the structure is sound, over time you may want to consider replacing just the top deck with better materials.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

Yep, I used to live in northern New England. Nice summers, awful winters. Here in the deep south (y'all), it's impossible to use decks most days from June to August. Today, however, it's in the 70's (late November) and it's great being outdoors. Decks in the south are great in spring and fall and sometimes in the winter too.
One other point: I used a Black & Decker "Dragster" (what an awful, stupid name) for a narrow wedge shaped sander designed to go underneath deck railings. The only problem is the sandpaper is on the right which is great for sanding to the left side of posts. When I couldn't reach the posts from the opposite side of the deck, I had to scrape and hand sand. Not a lot of fun. The "Dragster" is also greatly underpowered and does an awful job of dust pickup. I brought it back.
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