I've been knee deep in a project the past couple of weeks, and it's one that really didn't have to go this far if I'd only been proactive about it.
When we bought our house back in 1999, one of the features was a long deck that's immediately outside the sliding glass door from our kitchen. It's about 50 feet long by about 16 feet deep. The deck was somewhat weathered, so my dad and I did the whole refinishing thing and put on water seal, plus a new opaque stain. Well, about three years into owning the house the finish we put on started to blister and crack. I didn't like the look of that at all, so I got the bright idea to sand down the deck and put a new oil based sealant on it, guaranteed to last for three years. I'll admit it looked pretty good after we finished it.
Well, something happened in those ensuing years; I got laid off from a couple of jobs, went back to school, got my degree, retooled my career, and focused on my kids growing up. All this time, the deck got progressively worse and worse. I kept saying to myself, it's no big deal, I'll just clean it up one weekend when I have some free time. Well that free time finally came last weekend, or rather, my hand was forced when I noticed several boards that were literally rotting away. Nothing like an obvious problem to get your butt into gear.
My brother and dad are both fairly handy sorts. I'm getting there, but I'll admit my forte is closer aligned to computers and gadgets rather than decks and home improvements. Still, it was clear we had to do something. My brother has a hefty and powerful pressure washer that runs on gasoline and hooks up to a hose. As we decided to do what we should have done the first time, i.e. give the deck a thorough pressure washing and abrasion, we noticed that the ends of many of the boards were disintegrating as the water hit them. We're talking chunks of wood flying. Ugh!
Net result was that we made a decision to replace about ten boards that were in the worst condition, and we've earmarked about two dozen others that are still good and solid, but could become questionable later. After finishing the pressure wash and waiting a week for it to dry out, we then put down ten gallons of primer. Right now, our back yard deck looks like a blizzard just came through (i.e it's pure white and rather blinding at the moment). Yesterday I ran through and made a second pass because so much redwood was still showing through after the primer coat had dried (redwood just sucks up paint like nobody's business). Tomorrow, the real color goes on (California Rustic, a nice deep opaque redwood stain). After that it's 72 hours of curing and drying, and then I can replace the furniture and my family can go into the back yard again.
The moral to this story? Little issues can become big issues if you do not take care of them early on. Had we done the level of prep work and cleaning that we did this time around back in 1999, we would just now be coming to the point where we'd need to do the work again, only the wood would have been in 100% better condition, and the need to replace boards would have been minimal if required at all. As it stands, I know that there's more work in store on this deck, and I'll be in the process of rotating sections and replacing boards for years to come, potentially having to replace the entire deck over the next few years. In other words, what could have just been a simple finishing job for a couple of hundred dollars in the cost of primer, stain and sealant will now potentially cost thousands of dollars over the next few years.
One thing's for sure, though; I'm scheduling a yearly check-up and touch-up for the deck every August from now on. I do *not* want to be in this situation again, if I have anything to say or do about it!