I knew my deck project was a lost cause when I started. Having determined that there was more rotten wood than good, I should have followed everyone’s advice and torn the thing down.
But I was determined that I could at least make the deck safe enough to eke out one more year of use before demolishing it, and so I set out – with no particular plan – to fix it.
I ripped up the most rotten planks and filled in with lesser rotten planks. I cut the worst parts off of some half-rotten planks and nailed the better portions across the one- or two-beam spans they would still fit. I flipped some planks over so the cupping would turn to crowning (although I’m not sure what advantage I saw in doing that). The result was as hodgepodge as the process makes it sound.
I still saw potential. Build some steps here, fill in some holes there… maybe even use the beams that stuck out farther than my now reduced-size deck to frame planter boxes. By the time I was done, those House Beautiful photo spreads would pale in comparison to my deck.
Nothing up to this point required any monetary output. I aimed to continue that trend by repainting the deck with the same stuff I had used previously. The exact same stuff. The stuff I had purchased about 10 years ago. The stuff that had been sitting out in a shed, exposed to a decade of hot summers and freezing winters. It should still be good, right?
I pried open one of the five-gallon buckets of leftover paint. It was about half full and had separated into sludge at the bottom and murky liquid on top. After some effortful stirring, it looked usable. Maybe. There was another partial bucket of paint plus a full bucket, so I was good to go!
First, though, I scraped off the old paint that was peeling rather dramatically in some places. That took a long time, but I used it as a kind of meditative practice. Sitting on the warm deck, my 3” metal-bladed scraper in hand, I let my mind wander as I puttered along from plank to plank. The hardest part was avoiding splinters in my bottom.
I splurged for a gallon of deck primer because, after all, the previous paint job had only lasted eight years or so. The primer had to go on when the deck was dry. No problem. It hadn’t rained in two months, and in checking the forecast, there was only a 15% chance of rain. I checked a second weather app just to make certain. Then I primed the deck.
The primer made the deck look all shiny and smoothed some of the splinters down, so it was already a huge improvement. After three hours of drying (per the instructions), the deck was ready to paint. It was getting a bit cloudy, but a 15% chance of rain means it’s 85% not likely to rain, right? Besides, the report had shown the chance of rain decreasing as the afternoon wore on.
So on to the painting. The unopened five-gallon bucket of paint was unusable; the sludge at the bottom had actually solidified. The two partial buckets were workable, and after combining them, I had just enough paint to cover the deck. It looked really good when I finished. I mean, really good!
I cleaned up my painting tools in the garage utility sink, came inside and looked out the window at my beautiful deck. And it was raining. Yes, rain. Not just a trace. Real honest-to-goodness big drops like we hadn’t seen in months. And it kept raining.
Today my deck is splotched with what paint managed to stay on. Where the paint went on thicker or had more protection from the rain, there is a gritty sludge that so far refuses to dry. It looks horrible. I mean, really horrible!
But! I’m still not giving up hope! When the remaining sludge dries enough that I can get out on the deck, I will reassess my options. I may have to invest in some paint that was manufactured in the current decade. I may have to admit that the end result will only be good for a year, if that.
At the end of most DIY projects around my home, I can stand back, look on with the satisfaction of knowing that I have made improvements, and most likely have gained a new skill or improved upon a skill already acquired. When this deck project is done… hmmm.
Well, there will be more room in the shed where the paint sat for years. That’s a plus. And I guess I could still turn the gaping holes between beams into creosote-laden flower beds. That just doesn’t bring on much of a sense of satisfaction, though.
Maybe the satisfaction will come when I rip the deck apart, plank by plank. The rain has stopped. This might be the perfect day for it. A little demolition work always lifts the spirits. And I wouldn’t have to buy more paint. A win all the way around, no?