Advice on old deck- joiner vs planer


My house has an old cedar deck that, after 18 years, has suffered from a Southern exposure, such that the upper board surfaces are grayed, large cracks going down 1/16 to 1/8th, and probably some are slightly bowed, warped or otherwise mis-shapen. My wife wants to trash the deck but I think that's a mistake. I had heard a "trick" of pulling up the surface boards and just flipping them and staining. Haven't looked at the under side but suspect that might not do the trick. Then it occurred to me that it might be very cost effective to buy a joiner or planer and run the surface boards through it and end up with an almost new, smooth deck surface. Sorry for the long preface, but now to the question: as a rookie woodworker I'm not real clear on the difference between a planer and a joiner. But I presume if the boards are "true" and just in need of a new surface, I'd get a planer and take off the top 1/16th or 1/8th which is probably all that would be needed to remove the cracks and make it receptive to new stain/treatment. And I further presume if the boards are not true but rather slightly bowed (they are about 4-5 inches wide), then I'd buy a joiner and it would make the surface flat. But if the boards are mostly flat but just in need of taking off the top surface to get rid of cracks, couldn't a joiner serve both purposes, e.g. true up maybe the 10-20% of the boards that are a little bowed (the deck was nailed, not screwed, grrrrrrrr....) and use that same joiner for the flat boards to just take off the top surface ? The actual thickness of the boards is not critical as long as they are all reasonably the same, e.g. this is a deck, not fine cabinetry. In other words can just one machine be used to resurface the boards surfaces of a deck ? Thanks for any help or advice.
Bob
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I'd use the planer. It will assure the finished boards are all the same thickness. Even with a little bowing, once nailed or screwed back in place it should lay flat again.

Within reason that is true. You don't walk on fine cabinetry so a 1/4" section of wood won't put you on your ass.

Yes. If it was less than the 1/8" you could even rent a floor sander.
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Wow, incredibly fast and helpful response. And you even anticipated my next post since I forgot it in the first one- to ask if a floor sander would work. I suspect as I get into it I will find using both approaches to work best, e.g. a planar and a floor sander. I might be able to sand the floor surfaces but the railings and probably some of the flooring boards will require the planar as you suggested.
Thanks for the quick, helpful response.
Bob
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One thing to bear in mind is how the deck is attached to the framing. If it's just nailed down you're going to have to either go through and set all the nails deeper, then carefully use the sander. Or pull all the boards, remove all the nails then run them through the planer. Also you will have to remember to remove the surface a small bit at a time. Usually one rotation of the crank. Taking off a 1/16th to an 1/8th is going to take multiple passes.
I'm not trying to talk you out of it. Just pointing out that either method is going to take a LOT of work before you even get back to staining the deck again.
On 21 May 2006 20:15:44 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@austin.rr.com wrote:

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On Sun, 21 May 2006 20:28:37 -0700, Stonegrift wrote:

And either method (floor sander or planer) is going to leave sharp edges. Even more work is needed to ease those edges.
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Art Greenberg
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If the floor sander works OK on the floor, I'd strongly consider a belt sander for the rest of it rather than removing the boards to be planed.
todd
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com says...

In your original post, you said "cedar", so you are probably fine. If it is pressure treated, especially the older CCA SYP, sanding would be a *very* bad idea. You would get Arsenic all over your yard, in the air, dust everywhere. The newer ACQ pressure treated is supposed to be less toxic, but I think it could still be pretty bad. I wouldn't want to breath it or eat anything cooked in a cloud of ACQ dust.
A planer would be better because you could contain most of the shavings and they are much easier to sweep up and collect than sanding dust. You could probably rig up a large plastic tent-like structure over the outfeed side so you could feed the boards into the one end with the other end sealed, let them fall to the ground inside the tent after a pass through the planer, and after doing a bunch of them, wait for the shavings to settle before unsealing the tent to remove the boards for the next pass through the planer. (I'm imagining doing this outdoors without access to a dust collector system.)
All in all, cedar should be much easier do deal with; I think people use cedar shavings for mulch. (There are lots of different woods called "cedar", but I think none of then are particularly problems. Check before you use the shavings as mulch, though, especially on vegetables.)
I'm posting this because I'm worried that someone with a pressure treated deck may some day Google this thread and do themselves (and their family, friends and neighbors) serious harm.
--
John

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People use cedar because it's loaded with fungicides and insecticides. That's why it lasts outdoors. Fortunately, it's been grandfathered in under environmental rules!
Grit in the old boards would make planing a nasty task. Best answer is to use a thickness sander.
Of course, I won't remind you that you should collect the dust. That seems too obvious to me. Lots easier to do so on a thickness sander.
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Having read all of the other responses I'm compelled to ask - why such an elaborate solution to a simple deck? It is after all - a deck. Why not pressure wash the deck as it is? A pressure washer will remove all of the grey weathered look, though it won't do anything for the cracks. Do you really care that much about the cracks on a deck? Those cracks are just part of a deck surface. Cleaned up you may discover that they don't look as bad to your eye as they do now.
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Mike Marlow wrote:

Mike's advice is good. Consider doing the minimum (in terms of expense and labor) to get the desired result before moving to something like planing. Just taking apart and putting back together a deck will convince you of an ill-conceived idea, in most cases (if the cedar is that nice, maybe...). Try these steps in order:
1) Pressure wash it. You might be happy with the looks right there.
2) If it's still a bit rough, sand it. Rent a floor sander and get the appropriate grits (that's plural grits: don't neglect getting the final surface nice and smooth). Should take two passes for a deck, I'd think: first grit around #80, then finish with #120 or so. But you might want to experiment on the grit with that particular wood.
Get a decent belt sander and an orbital sander for the vertical sections. This part will be tedious, so break it up into chunks of time or space.
3) If there are cracks that bother you, fix them at this point. Good quality wood putty if they're small enough, otherwise rip a board into small triangular (crosscut) patches and glue them in, then sand them flush. Or, if they're bad enough replace a board or two.
4) Don't forget to put a protective coat of something on it. Don't skimp, ask at a professional paint supply store. Expect to pay $50+/gal. for good stuff. It's worth every penny, both in looks and how much longer it will last.
H
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On 21 May 2006 19:46:26 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@austin.rr.com wrote:

Easy. A planer is a machine that surfaces one face of a board making it parallel with its opposite face.
A joiner is a craftsperson who wields a variety of handtools in the pursuit of "joinery", that is making the interfaces between parts of a larger piece such as furniture, although a joiner might be employed in the construction of a house, as well.
Now a jointer, on the other hand...
--
LRod

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Keep in mind that any surface modification will be short lived before the deck turns grey again.
If you must, flip the boards. Don't double your work by resurfacing and replace any boards that are warped.

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Careful disassembly will take time. (lots) Keep in mind that if you plan to reassemble things will have to go back to pretty much the same place they came from. Sure everything doesn't have to be precisely logged, but you can just put it all into a few neat piles. (Certain combinations of boards will cover one length of floor, same for railings. You're on your own for making sure the nail/screw holes line up well enough so you don't end up with a swiss cheese style deck) If you're not careful you could end up with a huge jigsaw puzzle that you have to reassemble without the help of a picture to follow.
Planing will take time. (lots) Also, the years of accumulated dirt/sand will be hell on the planer blades. Expect to replace/sharpen re-set them often or you won't be getting the results you were seeking. (IMO it is a waste of time to plane all the boards with dull knives) Also, keep in mind that you will be limited on how much material you can remove. Check the local building code to be sure that the resulting pieces meet the minimum requirements for thickness. Don't forget that the (with any luck) few new boards you will need also need to be milled to the new dimensions.
Unless you've got some long overdue vacation comming, this may be more than you bargained for.
Some have suggested sanding. You'll need a drum sander for that. A screen on a floor buffer is going to get torn to shreds in minutes unless you've got a tongue & groove floor down. (My porch has T&G boards, and is relatively smooth and has -0- exposed nail heads, so I got away with using a buffer with screens however I did go through a few.)
Good luck.
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