What is the “average” life of a deck or balcony?

A wooden deck with a bench and potted plants

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You may ask this question when you are thinking about doing something with your redwood, Douglas Fir, or composite deck / balcony or perhaps you are interested in building a brand new one. 

A wooden deck with a railing

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The most important thing to know is “what is the average life of a deck in my area! Deck life varies in all different regions and weather zones. Some dry areas, a deck may safely last for 40 years and for other regions, it can be around 15 or less!

With over 50 years of experience and working within a 40-mile radius of Sacramento county, Placer county, and El Doradao county, I can safely say the average life of a deck is 20 years to 25 years. Some have less time and some a bit more. 

What affects the life of deck?

There are so many things to consider when thinking of having a deck repaired or added to a home. Two most common thoughts are “should I repair an old deck” or, “how long will my deck last”.

Some of the most important thing to consider are ventilation, application of products used, proper spacing of the planks, type of hardware and it’s use, wet rot, dry rot, wood pests, substructure, footings and how will the deck be used.

For this article we are going to focus on ventilation as we find this to be one of the most neglected items when people build a deck or balcony.  

Ventilation or the lack thereof

One of the most important and the most overlooked items in deck building is the need to have the deck ventilated. (The California Code requires that all decks have some form of ventilation). 

Consider this; in the spring and fall, our region is prone to early morning light rain or rain in the evening time. This is then followed by all day sun. The wet ground, under the decking, undergoes intense evaporation and creates its own “humid climate” where the humidity can exceed 90% RH while it is trying to “dry out.” 

This “rising moist evaporation” often sticks to or “soaks” into the bottom of the redwood slats and the underlying sub-structure. The deck planks absorb moisture from the wet evaporation leaving it prone to wet rot and / or an attractant to various fungi that is naturally in the air. See the picture below. 

A person holding a piece of wood

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The picture below is taken of the same deck. Notice how the top of the deck looks like it just needs to be cleaned and retreated or painted. 

A wooden plank on a staircase

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It is important to note that there are hundreds of handymen, painters, and deck repair people would love to take your money to sand and retreat the decking without any investigation. If a deck is around 15+ years old and you are thinking about renovating, cleaning, sealing, or painting the decking, it is imperative for a repair person to look under the decking to see the condition of the bottom of the planks. Sanding and re-treatment may not be an expenditure if rot / fungus is observed. Fungus weakens the integrity of the planks and can make them dangerous to walk on. 

If there is fungus building up on the bottom of the planks, it is our opinion to replace the deck before it is unsafe for you, your family, and friends. 

If you see rot on top of the boards, the deck needs replacement. It is NOT an option to repair it. 

To get a free quote for deck / balcony / railing repairs or building. 

Carruth Home Solutions at 916-257-8310

Text 916-257-8310

Email carruthhomesoltions2016@gmail.com