Replacing Deck Boards: A Simple 9-Step Guide

If you feel that your deck isn’t inviting anymore, or not even safe, maybe you should begin by replacing its deck boards. If you want to learn more about replacing deck boards because the old ones are rotting, or the color has faded, this guide is for you. However, before getting to work, check to see if you need a permit for this type of project.

Follow these simple steps to give your deck a new look and enjoy being outdoors once again. 

Home with wood deck

1. Remove the old deck boards​

The first thing you want to do before installing replacement deck boards is to remove all of the old boards. You’ll need your pry bar, hammer, a crowbar, and a drill driver for this part. The secret here is the leverage to get the crowbar in between two boards where they meet at a joint and use the board that you are removing as a fulcrum point.

Use the crowbar to pry up each board. It’s ok if you can’t get them all up in one shot, just work your way across the deck, then come back and do it again for the remaining deck boards.

old deck boards and pry bar

Next, remove any nails or screws left behind with your screwdriver so that you’ll be ready to put the new boards in. Use your crowbar again to pop up any boards that are still stuck down, then take them out.

After you have all of the old boards removed, check for loose screws or nails, and remove those as well using your screwdriver. There are usually a few along the sides where they meet with railings. You can go ahead and set the bad deck boards aside. If they are not in horrible shape you might be able to salvage some of them on another project.

2. Clean and prepare the surface for the new boards

After you have removed all of the old deck boards, it’s time to clean and prepare the surface for the new ones. This is a very important step, as you want the boards to adhere well and last for a long time. Use a deck cleaner to remove any dirt, stains, or mildew. Be sure to follow the instructions on the cleaner carefully, as each one is different. Allow the surface to dry completely before moving on.

If you’re only replacing some of the boards, use a pole sander or power sander and run it across the joists. This will give the new wood or composite deck boards something to stick to as well as make them match more closely. Be sure to wear safety goggles and a dust mask as you will be blowing off and inhaling a lot of sawdust.

Once your wood or composite decking is clean and sanded, it’s time to apply three layers of wood stain or sealer. You can use either product, just keep in mind that many people believe wood stains are more durable than sealers and will protect the deck longer. Be sure to follow the instructions on your stain/sealer carefully as they are very different from product to product. You can apply three coats, or until you have achieved the desired color. Allow the final coat of sealer to dry for a full day before moving on.

3. Measure the area where the new deck boards will be installed​

Now that the surface is clean and dry, it’s time to measure and cut the new boards. You’ll want them to be the same length as the old ones, so measure each one and cut them accordingly.

When measuring the deck surface where your deck boards will be installed, make sure you account for both height and width. You need at least 2′ x 7 1/4″ inch surface wood in order to install them successfully so if they’re wider than this standard size then it’s important that some of these excess pieces are ripped off before installation begins.

4. Cut the new deck boards to size​

When cutting your deck boards to size, you will want to make sure that they are all the same length. This will help to ensure that your deck looks uniform and professional.

Deck boards and mitter

To do this, you can use a miter saw or a circular saw. A miter saw is more accurate, but a circular saw is more user-friendly and can be used by anyone.

No matter which saw you choose, always make sure to measure twice and cut once to avoid any mistakes. If you had to rip down the width on some of them, this is a good time to do so.

5. Drill pilot holes and attach to deck boards

After you have cut your boards, take them back out to the deck (it’s a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeves so your arms don’t get scratched from the rough wood).

Use your drill with a screw bit to drill pilot holes for each screw according to where they will be placed. Put the screws in the deck board using your power screwdriver, one for each pilot hole.

A contractor screwing down decking boards

6. Install the new deck boards

Use your drill and screwdriver to put screws into each board where it meets a joist, just like you did when you first laid down the deck. Make sure that all of the boards are secure and will not come up after you start walking on them, then get rid of your extra screws.

Replace all of the hardware you can find that attaches the boards together, but if there are stripped or missing screws then replace all of them with new ones. This will keep the deck from being loose and unsafe to walk on.

A contractor screwing down decking boards

7. Paint Your New Deck Boards​

Once your replacement deck board is installed, you may want to consider painting it. This can be a great way to protect the pressure-treated lumber from the elements and keep them looking nice for years to come. There are many different types of paint available, so be sure to choose one that is best suited for outdoor use.

Painting deck boards

Apply the paint in even strokes, making sure to cover the entire surface. Be sure to let it dry completely before walking on it or using it for any other purpose.

8. Clean up after replacing deck boards

Your new deck is now installed, safe to walk on, and beautiful. But you still have one more step to complete – the cleaning part.

The first step would be to sweep up any sanding dust or sawdust that may have fallen onto the wood while you were working on it.

You should also make sure there are no nails sticking out where people could get hurt; if you can’t find them with your fingers then use pliers to pull them out before someone gets hurt.

If this is an outdoor deck, be sure that rainwater doesn’t pool under it by making some drainage holes in the corners (you can buy roof flashing at most hardware stores).

9. Enjoy your beautiful deck!

Now that your new deck is installed, it’s time to enjoy it! Invite your friends and family over for a barbecue or just to hang out and relax. Your deck is the perfect place to enjoy the summer weather, throw an epic party, or just unwind after a long day of work.

A composite deck with a large pool and plants

Replacing your deck boards can seem a bit daunting, but by following our simple 9-step guide, you can have a beautiful new deck in no time.

We’ve outlined all the steps you need to take, from cleaning and preparing the surface to measuring the area and installing the new boards. So before you put off that much-needed renovation any longer, grab a friend and follow our guide to replacing deck boards or, if you don’t want the trouble, just call us today and we’ll do it for you!