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How can a 13-year-old deck be rotted?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ April 14, 2013 ~ No Comments

13 years ago we had a cedar deck built onto our new house. We have had it power washed and stained every other year. We have very little shade in the backyard so it's in the sun all the time. The last few years a lot of boards started to rot. We replaced them and some were just crumbling in our hands. Now the rest of the deck is rotting. How can this deck be rotting so quickly?

Shelley -- Plainsboro, NJ

Jeffrey Anderson

Shelley, that is definitely a mystery: I have never heard of properly maintained cedar going bad that quickly. Even if it hadn't been taken care of, the wood should have lasted longer than 13 years, especially if the deck is located where it's getting plenty of sunlight.

I have heard of problems with pressure treated-lumber that is used for decks or fencing. Studies indicated that the chemicals that were used for many years to treat the wood could possibly be hazardous to the environment. As a result, manufacturers began using a different treatment process. Unfortunately, rather than protecting the wood, it seemed to speed up moisture decay.

I have a neighbor, who also happens to be a remodeling contractor, with two decks on his home. He built one of them 30 years ago with treated lumber and it is still in good shape. The second was constructed 3 years ago with the "new" treated wood and has already started to rot. He told me the other day that he'll probably have to replace it this year. However, cedar rarely goes through a treatment process so I wouldn't think that this would be your problem.

I really don't have a good answer other than you may have gotten a bad batch of cedar. In any event, replacing the decking with composite material seems like a good plan. I have used composite decking for over a decade now and for the most part it is an excellent product. I know that all of my customers have liked its appearance and appreciated the low-maintenance.

The early composite decking was prone to fading after being exposed to the elements for a long period of time -- especially the darker colors. However, I believe just about all of the major manufacturers have corrected that issue now as I haven't had that problem arise in the past several years.

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