A lot of customers come in this time of year looking for new decking materials to put over their old deck frame. In a customer’s mind, it makes perfect sense to tear off the old deck boards and replace them with brand new composite boards and just keep the same old frame underneath. As a LBM professional, you need to know that this is often not the case.
More often than not, it is more cost-effective to replace the entire deck. On a wood deck, the joists are probably set at 16″ on center and many brands of composite decking need to be 12″ on center. Composites also typically require a different kind of framing, and you’ll need to add some blocking. Think of it this way: The labor that goes into repairing a deck and carefully removing the railing and the decking can exceed the cost to reframe it (or at least come out about the same).
It falls under the law of diminishing returns. In reality, it is most often a better deal for a homeowner to tear down a whole deck and put up a new one rather than try to salvage what they’ve got. Likely, the previous deck was constructed with older building materials or wasn’t built to current codes. What would be the point of saving a 20-year-old frame to put on an expensive new deck? If your customer has trouble seeing the need to build a new deck, ask them this: If their car was rusted, would they save the frame and put a new body on it?
There is still a market for customers who want a re-deck, and there are likely some decks in your area on which the frames could support a re-deck, but when pricing out the projects, it is almost always going to come to a nearly equal cost to replace the entire deck.
Often times, an inexperienced deck builder may agree to replace the deck boards, but will not consider the work that has to be done below the boards. For instance, if they’re going to have to change joists and fix or repair flashing, footings and connections, they’ve already gone well beyond just replacing the deck boards. Anyone who is purchasing materials from your store—whether a deck building professional or a DIY homeowner—should be aware that it may be less expensive and safer to replace the entire deck.
Say a brand new deck costs $20,000 to build. The deck is old, but can be re-decked for $10,000. How many times do you think that builder is going to go back to the customer and tell them that once they started tearing into the deck boards they realized that they have to fix a framing issue? At the end of the day, that re-deck project may end up costing $22,000 and the homeowner is still left with a 20-year-old frame underneath.
Lead with Inspections
If you’re building decks, deck inspections can be a great lead in to deck projects. Each spring, the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) offers a deck inspection checklist that contains things to look for when inspecting a deck. With that in hand, you can become an authority on deck safety in your market and advertise that you are a NADRA member who provides deck checkups. The NADRA checklist is the same whether you are pitching a re-deck or a complete build. It’s a good sales tool. You can send an inspector around looking for unsafe decks, and in pitching your services you’re also doing a service to your community.
However, know that by law you are liable for that deck for a number of years past its build date. Here in Minnesota where I operate The Deck Store, that timeframe is 10 years. So if you indeed do a re-deck, be sure to follow all manufacturer instructions and make sure the project meets all legal requirements.
While the need for a re-deck may be what first introduced you to your potential customer, remember that even if on paper it looks like it is going to be more expensive to redo the entire deck, you’re going to want to have a conversation with the customer about replacing it.
At the end of the day, even if it costs more to redo the entire deck, it’s a better sales tool to offer a new deck for a little more money. It’s about education. If your customer understands the benefits of building a new deck versus replacing boards on an old deck, you’ll both be better served. Most often, you will find that the cost of a re-deck project is extra money to the homeowner and extra liability for you, the builder or retailer. n