How to deal with rot on your decking

Decking Rot

The UK has a famously – perhaps infamously – mild climate. That means while we’re spared from the temperature extremes that they have to endure in other countries, at the same time we do have to contend with a fair amount of rain. That can be a problem when it comes to timber decking, and if it’s not given proper care and attention in the rainier autumn and winter months, then it can all too easily start to develop issues with rot.

Happily, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to replace your entire deck as long as you catch it early enough, and if you’re careful enough with maintenance you might be able to prevent it from developing at all.

Why does decking rot (and why is that a problem?)

Many instances of rot are caused primarily by moisture or pools of water building up on your decking, which is one of the main reasons why it’s so important to keep an eye on it even throughout autumn and winter. Basically, damp conditions provide the perfect breeding ground for fungus, and when that fungus encounters wet wood, the tannin in the timber reacts to it. That leads to nasty black stains that can spoil the look of your decking.

Most importantly, rot can also make your decking actively dangerous, as it has the effect of weakening the wood – potentially causing it to break when you or a member of your family is using it.

How to prevent rot from forming on your deck

Thankfully, there are lots of things you can do to prevent your decking from being affected by rot, and several of them can be taken care of simply by ensuring that you’re keeping up with some routine maintenance for your deck.

Decking oil is one of the best, most reliable preventative measures you can take, as it effectively seals your decking boards against water ingress and contaminants. It doesn’t need to be applied often, only once or twice a year. Between those times, keep an eye on your decking, and after heavy or extended periods of rain, look out for puddles of water that can start to form on your decking’s surface. When that happens, all you need to normally do is get yourself a broom, and just sweep the biggest puddles away before they start to seep into the boards.

Plus, don’t forget to keep an eye on plant pots and other decking ornaments or furniture. When plants are watered – or when it rains – water can start to get trapped underneath the pot, leaving it with nowhere to go but down through or into your decking.

On a similar note, if you’re clearing water off your decking or checking it for rot, then it’s worth having a look around to see if there’s anything above your deck that could be funnelling water onto it. This might be a broken or poorly positioned gutter, for example. Or, if your roof doesn’t have a gutter at all, that might be your problem right there!

If you don’t yet own your own deck, but you’re thinking about getting one in future, then it’s definitely worth considering whether you want composite decking rather than wooden timber boards. The chemical makeup of composite decking boards means they’re completely immune to rot, especially since they’re not sufficiently permeable for water ingress to be quite so much of a problem.

how to oil your decking

How to check your decking for signs of rot

Some forms of rot might be very easy to identify, as it often results in the formation and steady spread of a black stain across the timber. What’s more, it will probably feel soft and spongy to the touch.

If you suspect that a part of your decking might be rotting, but you can’t see any external signs of it, there’s an easy way to tell. All you have to do is press a screwdriver into the surface of the wood (you’ll probably want to do this in an unobtrusive spot if you can do). The further that your screwdriver can go into the wood with a minimum amount of effort, the further the rot has spread.

It’s also a good idea to check these parts of your decking:

The underside of your decking boards. As well as the upper surface, you’ll want to take a ganders underneath if you can. You’ll be able to identify the rotting wood by the colour, or by the fact that pieces of it might break away easily in your fingers (which can happen when the rot has already dried out). If the rot is just confined to a single board, you can probably simply replace it.

Your decking posts. Give the full length of each post a once-over at the very least, but you’ll want to pay particular attention to the bottom of them, where they meet the ground. This is where the water tends to collect, and therefore where they can be most vulnerable to rot. Since the posts are supporting structures, if they show signs of rot then they need to be replaced immediately.

Railings. If your railings feel weak or loose at all, it’s important not to hang around getting them replaced, as people tend typically lean all or at least part of their bodyweight on them. Check the base of the railing in particular, where it meets the rest of your deck, as this is where the rot can start spreading to the other boards.

Nails and screws. Water can start to collect around the heads of nails or screws that have been driven downwards into the wood, and if it’s left undisturbed for long enough – well, you know the drill. If you spot that rot has already started to spread, it’s worth replacing the affected boards as soon as you can, to prevent it from spreading further.

And if you ever need any replacement decking boards, that’s exactly where we can help here at Savoy Timber. Replacement decking boards are just one of the many things you’ll find amongst our stock, which ranges from standard timber decking to even more advanced composite decking products. If you fancy browsing our products for yourself, feel free to pay a visit to our DIY stores in Blackpool, Preston or Wigan. We’re dedicated to helping you to shop safely during the ongoing Covid-19 situation, so don’t forget to check our latest Covid-19 service update before you visit!