To restore or replace your deck

Last year I opened by talking about the breathtaking views that can be seen from the decks of Park City. This year I’m thinking much smaller. In my mind’s eye I have replaced those majestic, sweeping, mountain vistas with a microscopic view of wood. Before I saw the forest, now I also see the cells contained within.

The more I understand wood the more I appreciate its resilience. A piece of wood can be manipulated it a thousand ways and its basic cellular structure will remain intact and unaltered from the surrounding elements. I have seen 30 year old redwood that seemed hopeless be sanded lightly until it is glowing with the rosy hue of a newborn (redwood that is).

The question:

“Should I just tear this deck out and start over or is there some way to bring it back to life.”

When my company, Park City Deck Stylists consults on this question we first determine your purpose(s) for the deck. Is it a show piece that greatly adds to the aesthetic beauty of your house? Is it a main gathering point for family and friends in the summertime? Is your deck achieving its desired purpose? Why or why not?

Restoration is amazing

Once you have determined the purpose of your deck and measured its performance accordingly you can then decide on a course of action.

“Restoration is greatly more affordable and can yield a fine finished product but there are some instances where replacement is required. We have sanded redwood decks up to 35 years old with great results. Unless we see daylight shining through the boards we can usually sand effectively,” says Patrick Occhino, owner of Pro Deck Doctor, a deck restoration company in Park City.

People are consistently amazed by what sanding and the proper finish can do both aesthetically and functionally to improve the quality of an old deck. Graying, pollutants, internal impurities, paint, oil stains, dog scratches, can all be removed with sanding. Broken or “bleeding” screws or nails can be taken out and replaced with high quality non-reactive fasteners. Cracked, splintered, and rotting boards can be swapped out with fresh lumber and made to blend in with the finished product. We can un-do just about any botched maintenance procedure and make it look and perform well. That being said…

Restoration is not magic.

There are some issues that cannot be addressed with a restoration. Below are some examples.

Design is a key factor in the performance of a deck. For example, if your deck is facing north and you want a private, sunny spot to lie out in the summer, you may want to think about new construction. If you’re deck is meant to be a showpiece and it’s hidden away in a corner or doesn’t give your house the “curb appeal” you’re looking for, it might make financial sense to consider rebuilding.

Original construction issues may also be a factor. If the framing is incorrect or outdated then it makes no sense to simply replace the surface. Decks that were built 30 years ago my not have been subject to the same rigorous construction requirements of today. This is especially important in a commercial setting where liability issues are greater.


Assuming that adequate structural integrity can be achieved, cost will probably become the determining factor for the homeowner in deciding whether to restore or replace. A redwood deck typically costs about $22 per square foot to install, compared with about $2.00 per square foot to restore. This usually makes restoration an easy choice for the price conscious consumer.

The simple answer to the proposed question is this: if the structure is sound, the shape and size are right, and the location fits the purpose, your deck can be restored. A deck restoration begins by conceptually separating all of the parts from the whole; the cells from the boards, the boards from the deck, the deck from the house, the design from the structure, the function from the aesthetic, and the house from the surrounding environment. Through the process these parts systematically come back together until a more harmonious whole emerges in the end.