Image of deck framing. So, Can I Re-Use My Old Deck Framing?

Can I Re-Use My Old Deck Framing?

Decks are about the only remodel work with exposed frames, which battle insects, rain, snow, UV rays from the sun, moisture, and everything else mother nature throws at it. Also, the exposure is year-round because they do not have paint layers, caulk, siding, and even water barriers for added protection. So, they rot and wear out very fast, leading to the query, Can I Re-Use My Old Deck Framing?

It is not okay to re-use old, worn-out deck framing. Deck frame failures cause injuries annually, and thus it would be best to examine the frames before use. For instance, you can assess whether they are soft to the touch or if the ends are decaying. There should never be soft spots on your framing as it is a sign of rot.

On top of that, deck framing is an essential part of deck projects, and it is prudent to get the right supplies. Thus, please check out this article for more information on deck framing and how to make it durable.

How Long Should Deck Framing Last?

A well-built deck frame should last years, if not decades. However, various decking types feature different life spans. For example, decks from untreated wood last between ten to 30 years, whereas treated wood and composite decks can go up to 50 years.

In addition, most composite decks have a 20-year warranty and even a lifetime guarantee. And even better, decks from quality composite materials like TimberTech have a 25-year fade and stain warranty.

It is prudent to examine the deck framing frequently. This way, you can tell if the frames are still fit for use. Also, focus on whether any part has rot or decay, especially if the frame looks weathered.

Does Deck Framing Need to be Pressure Treated?

You are better of with pressure treated frames if your project has direct contact with anything that supplies moisture. Thus, deck frames touching masonry or concrete should be pressure treated because these materials are porous and wick moisture like a sponge.

Besides, ensure that you pressure treat the deck frames when there is a likelihood that moisture will reach them. Otherwise, they will rot and decay quickly, requiring you to replace them.

Also, the International Building Code requires constructors to pressure treat the last six inches of the structure above the ground, especially when working with siding and structural lumber.

You do not need to pressure treat deck frames if you use them in the house. The chemicals that treat the wood are copper and arsenic compounds, which are not safe for humans. In addition, you could accidentally ingest harmful chemicals that gradually affect your health, especially when you touch them and rub your eyes.

The recommended practice is to consider untreated wood for structures inside the house or areas where kids and pets spend time regularly. Alternatively, you can use a naturally rot-resistant wood type, like cedar, instead of putting your family at risk of severe health issues.

Unfortunately, sometimes, it is impractical to build a durable structure without using pressure treated lumber. But, you can apply an oil-based sealant on the wood as a protective measure.

These sealants limit the amount of copper, arsenic, and other harmful compounds from reaching the wood’s surface. Therefore, they allow you to enjoy the durability of pressure treated lumber while still protecting your family.

Can I Use Untreated Wood for Deck Joists?

No. It is not prudent to use untreated wood for deck joists as it rots quickly and eventually compromises the structure’s integrity. In addition, you are safer applying an oil-based sealant as a protective measure if you use untreated deck joists.

It would be best to choose the best joists as the deck can run into multiple problems despite using durable and high-quality decks. Therefore, either use treated lumber for deck joists or seal the surface.

Also, there are multiple alternatives for your deck frames and joists. But you are better off consulting with your local building codes and guidelines to start your project on the right footing.

Lastly, various deck projects demand different requirements. Thus, it is prudent to scout for the most suitable joists depending on your preferences and the deck project requirements. Here are your options:

  • Pressure-Treated Pine and Other Woods

Generally, pressure treated lumber is the most common material for frames and joists. Also, it is often from cheaper and lower-quality wood varieties and is easily accessible. But sometimes manufacturers may use hardwoods too, when necessary.

The pressure-treating process involves injecting the wood with chemical preservatives, protecting it from molds, moisture, and insect problems. So, you can use the lumber for decking joists without worrying about rot or damage.

Unfortunately, readily available, weather and insect-proof, cheap, and pressure treated wood may present a few drawbacks. For instance, it is the least sustainable among the other options, and the chemicals in the lumber are often toxic. Thus, please observe safety precautions when installing, sawing, or discarding the wood.

Also, although the treated wood tends to splinter and crack more than other types, you can get the maximum benefit from the lumber by choosing a suitable variety. In addition, higher-quality deck joists will serve you a long time without failing.

  • Cedar, Redwood, and Other Untreated Softwoods

This alternative is for woodworkers who do not prefer chemically treated lumber. More so, redwood, cedar, and some untreated softwoods are perfect for making deck joists. These wood types also assure you of longevity as they are highly resistant to molding, insects, and rotting.

Besides, softwoods are good-looking, safe, and sustainable. They are less susceptible to splitting and cracking and naturally resistant to moisture and pests. Therefore, you can comfortably use them as decking boards and deck joists.

  • Composite Lumber

It would be best to use durable and weatherproof material because decking joists often face many problems. So, please choose composite wood as it is durable and waterproof and makes excellent joists and frames.

Also, please note that although untreated softwoods and pressure treated wood deliver excellent decking frames, they are still lumber. And over time, you will have issues like rotting, insect damage, and warping.

  • Metal Joists and Frames

Metal is another suitable material for joists and frames. It is the most durable and densest building material and does not have the same problems associated with using wood. Also, nothing can match them in terms of structural integrity.

Examples of metal materials for framing include aluminum and stainless steel, leaving you with a few options up your sleeve. Unfortunately, metal is costly and hard to transport or install. So, many rarely use it for residential decks.

Can I Use Untreated Wood For Deck Frame?

Yes, it is okay to use untreated wood for deck frames. But you will not deliver a successful project without preparing the lumber first. Also, you will have to seal the surface to keep it safe from harsh external weather.

The problem with using untreated lumber outdoors is that it performs well only for a while. Then, it rots depending on the exposure level to elements. Ultimately, the compromised lumber decreases the structure’s overall integrity and delivers an unsafe deck.

Below are additional issues you’ll face with untreated wood:

  • Water Damage

This problem is perhaps the biggest one you’ll face. The deck will get moisture from the rain or your yard’s sprinkler system. Thus, it is better to use waterproof materials for deck construction.

Additionally, you will notice mold growing and eating up the rest of the timber the more the wood gets water exposure. So, please spare a few coins and some time to seal the wood for added protection.

  • Sunlight

Ultraviolet rays, given enough time, are an enemy to almost everything, be it wood or your skin. In addition, both treated and untreated lumber can degrade over time with extreme sunlight exposure.

The sun heats the wood and changes its composition. Even worse, it drains the oil in the lumber and eventually compromises its longevity. Also, the deck may become brittle and can catch fire easily, making it an unsafe spot for kids and pets.

On top of that, using untreated wood will lead to extra costs during risk mitigation and wood repair. Therefore, it would be best to treat the wood and enhance its lifespan despite exposure to moisture and pests.

How Long Will a Timber Deck Frame Last?

Depending on the construction, you can expect a timber deck frame to last about 15 to 25 years. In addition, effective maintenance will help keep the structure in good shape for a long duration.

It is possible to enhance the timber deck frame’s life span by using pressure treated softwood, heat-treated, or chemically modified wood. Also, please consider a softwood or hardwood species with sufficient inherent natural durability. This way, you won’t worry about replacing the deck frame soon.

How Do I keep my Deck Joists From Rotting?

The war on rot is lost or won with water. Hence, your deck joists will remain rot-free if you keep them dry. Fortunately, you do not have to break your back trying to hide the deck joists from water. You are good to go if you reduce as much deck moisture as you can.

Additionally, it is possible to stop joist rot by removing what fungi need. These insects, like humans, need to drink, eat, breathe, and reproduce. So, you can eliminate them with an environment devoid of a source of infection, moisture, food, oxygen, and suitable temperature levels.

Unfortunately, controlling or limiting temperatures and oxygen around the joist is impractical. And the process may be frustrating and demanding. So, please try to reduce as much moisture as you can from the deck joists and remove the fungi’s food.

Also, other ways to prevent deck joist rot include:

  • Allow the Deck Joist Enough Ventilation

You may not stop the rain but can allow the joist to dry. Thus, consider letting fresh air movement in the joist area every time it rains. Also, this move will reduce harmful humidity levels and allow the wood to dry.

Better still, fungi spores need time to grow. You can gradually curb their growth by reducing moisture levels in the atmosphere and around the joist. Therefore, drying does not need to be an instant event to give you results.

Additionally, all that fungi and rot need is moisture. Therefore, it would be best to design your deck with 3/4 -inch gaps or vents between skirting material to give water an escape route. 

  • Seal the Joist with a Water Repellant Sealer

Most pressure treated woods are immune to insects and fungi, not water. Hence, you can consider sealing the joist with a water repellant product to increase rot resistance. Also, lumber needs an 18% moisture content to grow, and thus a low moisture level will cause no harm.

On top of that, most wood sealers dealers warranty their products to repel water for about six to ten years. And it would be best to reapply the formula within this duration since your deck’s life is much longer.

  • Always Allow Water to Escape

All running or puddled water wants to get back to the earth and into the water cycle. Hence, it will not bother your deck if you give it escape routes. Also, running water over your deck is fine. It is just trapped water that softens the wood and makes it susceptible to rot and damage.

Besides, the two critical areas that trap water on your deck are multiple beams or joist plies and behind the deck ledger. Therefore, you can expect few water damage issues if you keep them water-free.

Also, it would be best to avoid squeezing decking materials together and use strips of treated ¼ inch plywood between joist plies. This way, you’ll allow water to drain freely and remove it from tight deck spaces.

Another strategy that allows water to escape is directing the water if gapping the ledgers and beams is not working. Also, remember that one of the best defenses is not to be there. Thus, you can construct the deck away from trapped water and puddle areas.

On top of that, you can position the posts in saddles and lift them above the water level. This way, you prevent moisture from soaking into the wood. Also, please overhang the decking as it directs water away from the joist.

  • Slope the Joist

Sloping the joist allows water to drain off the decking board by letting rainwater runoff. It also prevents pooling and keeps moisture levels at a minimum. Therefore, you’ll have reduced chances of fungi growth and rot.

The joist slope rate ranges from ⅛ inches over one foot to 1/32 inches. However, the numbers are not critical if you do not have the slope. Also, the slope helps to direct the water. So, the greater it is, the better drainage.

  • Flash the ledger and beam

Flashing will direct the water away from your ledge and beams and keep them dry. In addition, you can double up ‘L’ flashing with a silicon bead between them to shelter the beam joists from water.

Alternatively, you can use membrane flashing on joists. Cover them with a membrane before decking to seal penetrating screw holes. Also, the membrane will act as a shelter diverting water off the post.

  • Remove Protruding Post railing and Organic Material

It is okay to rail the joist posts and surround them with blocks for added strength. However, these railing may trap water beside the posts, joists, and blocks. Thus, you are safer covering the deck with decking and screw railing posts at the top and into the blocks below. 

On top of that, organic material on the deck enhances fungi growth and acts as a water collector. Therefore, gap the deck large enough to give room for sweeping out trapped material.

  • Make the Joist Inedible to Fungi

Another approach to saving the wood from rot and fungi is treating the wood. Fungi will move away from your joist when you stop feeding them. Thus, remove the water to save the wood and treat the wood to eliminate the fungi!

Here are some ways to treat the wood.

  • Use Higher Wood Treatment Level for Joist.

Generally, treated wood repels fungi and insects and thus lasts longer than untreated wood. However, there are different wood treatment levels. The most common method is Alkaline Copper Quaternary, which inhibits insects and fungi.

Also, you can go for 0.25-PCF for non-ground contact wood, 0.40-PCF for ground contact wood, and 0.60-PCF for pilings. This way, you’ll increase the joist’s rot resistance abilities, and it will last longer.

  • Treat End Cuts of Joist

Remember that only the wood edges absorb the treatment. Therefore, it is best to treat the end cuts of the joists. Also, use a brush or spray bottle to deliver complete coverage and maximum protection.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Factors Should I Consider When Examining Old Deck Framing?

The first thing to look out for is soft sports, as they are a sign of rot. Also, you can go directly to the end grain and check for rotten or decaying wood areas. This way, you’ll determine the level of compromise and if you need to replace the wood.

On top of that, check whether the top of the joist appears wider than the rest of the frame. This move will reveal if the joist’s top has splits and cracks from water soaking into the board.

Finally, you can assess the support posts are in the ground or concrete. Fortunately, the building codes forbid this practice as it traps waters. And the wood will eventually rot and decay.

  • Can I Reuse Old Deck Wood?

It is okay to reuse old deck wood for DIY projects like creating flower boxes, workbenches, chairs, picture frames, and chairs. But that is as far as you can go. Tasks such as deck framing need new deck woods for safety and longevity.

Also, most deck wood undergoes pressure treatment to keep it safe from elements. Hence, please assess whether the wood has chemicals. Otherwise, it will pose a health risk if you use such lumber in the kitchen.

  • Can I Cut Up or Burn Old Treated Deck Frames?

No. Please avoid cutting up or burning treated wood as it contains harmful chemicals. These chemicals make the lumber dangerous without proper disposal facilities. In addition, cutting up those pieces may not make the lumber easier to dispose of but instead creates environmental hazards.

Also, do not compost pressure treated wood. The chemicals in the lumber will saturate the compost, and you will unknowingly dump them in your garden. Even worse, these harmful chemicals will leach into the soil and contaminate the groundwater.

Burning unwanted wood may appear to be an easy and quick way to discard it. However, the story is different for chemically treated wood. The lumber has dangerous chemicals that should not get into the air, regardless of the form.

In addition, leftover ashes from treated wood contain high levels of arsenic, a component that leads to disturbances of the blood and circulation system, damage to the respiratory and nervous system, severe vomiting, and eventually death.

Therefore, please embrace proper wood disposal facilities and procedures. This way, you’ll avoid posing environmental and health risks to yourself and your loved ones.

Conclusion

It is okay to recycle wood materials if they are in good shape. However, deck frames are usually susceptible to rotting and insect damage due to constant exposure to elements. Thus, you are safer examining the wood and seeking answers to the concern:

Can I Re-Use My Old Deck Framing?

No. Please avoid re-using deck framing. The frames may fail before they show rot signs and thus cause injuries. In addition, frames and joists are usually vertical to keep them strong, but this placement allows water to run down the wood. Therefore, the wood rots faster and may not be suitable for re-use.

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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