Stringer brackets, screws, and other deck Q's

I have been tearing apart the steps to my moms deck and now see how they were constructed. The steps (l,m,r) were assembled as a unit by screwing (3-1/2" deck screws) through the stringers into the ends of 2x6s cut to fit between them (like roof freeze blocks) at the top of the stringer and adding steps for rigidity. The whole unit was then moved up to the deck and secured to the deck frame by screwing the 2x6 cross pieces to the deck's 2x6 frame. Seemed to work OK. I'm wondering if I should just repeat the same design or go with stringer brackets.
Also, what's the deal with deck screws? This deck is 10 yrs old and a mess. Mom never had any sealing or painting done. The 3-1/2" deck screws are either rusty or rusted through and broken. Unscrewing half of them just spins the heads off or stips the phillips slots.
Does sealing/painting preserve the screws at all? Mom also put on either outdoor carpeting or some kinda cheapo turf stuff. It's mostly rotted away. Seems to me coverings like this would hold moisture and accelerate degradation of untreated wood. Yes?
Although I have a good screw gun, I have no impact driver. I need to put in a lag bolt from 2x6 frame rail to vert 4x4. I assume before cordless drivers, one just pre-drilled and ran the bolt in with ratchet/wrench. Yes/no/maybe?
The deck condition is about half n' half. I'm replacing the steps (PT stringers). The top planks are worn and cracked, but serviceable. The under deck frame, being out of direct weather, is in good shape. Is there anything I can do to save, or at least extend the life of, the deck surface (planks)? An old wood sealer/saver?
I'm also creating a SU drawing of the whole thing. When I get a full drawing, I'll post it one of the freebie picture websites. Any recommendations for one?
nb
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I'll leave the rest to someone else but I use a lot of lag screws and up to half inch I just dip them in car paste wax and drive them with a milwaukee right angle drill, don't over do the wax, you will have to clean up the excess.
basilisk

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Ooh... great idea! I jes happen to have an an old Milwaukee 400rpm hi-torque 1/2 drill motor. I jes need a hex bit to fit.
nb
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writes:

I cut off a 3/8 extension and flattened three sides to fit the chuck, with a small pilot hole it will sock a 1/2" x 8" lag screw up to the head in a hurry.
basilisk
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writes:

Take care in drilling the pilot holes, that drill could twist the head off of a normal lag screw.
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I'd say the deck was constructed out of a wood that was not resistant to rot, probably not PT lumber. The screws were sub par. Normal deck screws even 10 years ago were combo, square drive and Philips in one, and were coated. That said however, I have some old square drive screws purchased from McFeeleys probably 18 years ago that have had comlete outside exposure to the elements for about as long and they only have a little surface rust, and they are pointed head up. Rain water has to evaporate out of the indentations.

Yes! the wood needs to dry out, if it stays damp it will fail prematurely.

Yes, but you can also use the corded drill to drive a lag bolt into a properly piloted hole.

Be sure you PT lumber is rated for ground contact.
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I plan on putting the base of the PT stringers on sunken patio stones with the vert bottom edge butting up against the existing patio stones.
nb
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writes:

Keep in mind that the wood can wick water up from a stone or rock.
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Another thing to look at is a under the deck approach to fastening the deck boards.
Deckmaster and several others work quite well.
If that won't fly, look at all stainless deck screws.
In my opinion, most if not all deck failures are caused by failing fastners. Once those screws rust, that creates a cute little hole that holds water very nicely. About ten year later, the entire deck starts looking crappy.
Carpet is not a good idea on a deck.
I wish now I would have spent the money on some of those new plastic boards that are everywhere now.
I might do Ipe on my go around...
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