18 mo Old Deck Splitting All Over. What to do?

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Old 05-13-15, 09:48 AM
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18 mo Old Deck Splitting All Over. What to do?

Deck was built and finished in November 2013. The builder said to treat it "after it dries", which I did in May 2014. In fact, I sprayed a lot on the top of the deck. The underneath area was not treated as much (as saturated) as the top.

One of the railings has come loose in the corner and is raised 2 inches. The vertical main 6x6 posts holding up the deck are splitting on the sides and some are splitting on the top of the railing; maybe 8 or more.

What has possibly caused this and who is responsible? The wood supplier? The builder? Both were thought to be reputable. Most importantly, what should I do?

(Although this seems to be unrelated I want to add it: The deck was built a little too close to a septic tank and without a permit. The builder had no problem without a permit and said he would be the one the county would first come after if discovered. I mention this only in case it might affect your advice regarding this situation.)

The deck cost me $8,000, which for my wife and I is A LOT of money.

Thanks.

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  #2  
Old 05-13-15, 10:10 AM
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The checking on the square timbers is fairly normal. If #2 grade then that is expected. Its all about drying out of the lumber. It does not however affect the structural integrity of the deck. The railings need a cross bar attached to the 6x6 under the rail to give something solid for the rail to be screwed into. It is a weak attachment point to screw into the end grain of the 6x6.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 10:24 AM
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It looks like there is a crossbar under the railing top, what am I missing?
 
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Old 05-13-15, 10:27 AM
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Cracking and splitting like that is why composite decking is so popular.

As for the permit the contractor is in a tough position. You even mention that the deck is too close to a septic. Did the contractor blindly walk up to your door one day and say he wanted to build you a deck right there? Or, did you the customer want a deck that size and in that location?
 
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Old 05-13-15, 10:34 AM
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And to add a bit about the permit and the contractor. You as the homeowner are the one they will "go after". It's as if you had built it yourself. If a permit is required, then the local rules apply. Some places want the contractor to get it, others allow the homeowner to pull it even if they have a contractor. It could be as bad as "tear it all down" or it could be just a fee and fine. Worst thing is how do they inspect the concrete footings for depth and size? Some places are very particular.

I see you said "sprayed a lot"...hopefully you also rolled or brushed it into the wood? If I was asked just from your pic, it doesn't look treated at all. I know it's been a year, but it looks like I can see some greying of the wood already. What did you use?

Another issue I think is the fact that flat 2x6 was used as the rail. It would have been better if a double bevel had been cut to allow drainage and help with the cupping. I'd also put caps on any exposed post ends like pic 1.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 10:53 AM
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It looks like there is a crossbar under the railing top, what am I missing?
That is an inside corner and the bar under the railing is either butt jointed and toenailed to the 6x6 or it floats free. A 5 1/2" piece of 2x4 nailed to the 6x6 under the rail would give a solid attachment point for the top rail on the outside portion to keep it from lifting.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 11:05 AM
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Thanks for replying.

We had absolutely no other choice about where to place the deck because the sliding glass door was already there and the only door we could have. We tore down the deck that came with the house. See photos.

I actually misspoke about it being close to the septic tank. My wife just now reminded me that the builder found a way to stop exactly enough feet away from the septic tank.

We interviewed three companies. One big company, a seedy greedy high-pressure guy, and then the third was the fellow we hired.

We thought at the time and still think we got a good, competent, very experienced honest builder to do the job.

I called the builder yesterday and asked him if he'd fix the corner where the railing was detached. He's coming in a few days and of course we'll pay him.

(Just realized I posted the same photo twice.)

Thanks again!
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Old 05-13-15, 11:10 AM
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Thanks for the info. While you were replying, my wife reminded me that the builder reworked the plan so that the deck stopped precisely at the point where it would be legal. Forget the part about the permit.

It was the first time I'd ever sprayed a deck. I forgot what I used but I don't think I used a brush at all.

Should I spray it again AND roll/brush it? If so, what product do you advise?

Thanks again.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 11:15 AM
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I remember the builder stressing and showing me that the concrete footings were sunk at least deep enough and maybe a tad deeper. However, as I said, the final product was not too close to the tank, thank goodness. I truly believer we had a great contractor..competent and 30+ years experience.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 11:56 AM
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What type of coating did you apply to the deck? how did you spray it? As noted above you always want to back roll [or brush] any coating sprayed on wood so it gets worked into the wood. If the coating just lays on top it won't last as long or protect as well.

btw - welcome to the forums!
 
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Old 05-13-15, 12:09 PM
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I used a sprayer but don't remember the type or brand. I didn't spray the underside of the deck. Meant to go back and do that, but didn't.

What would you recommend I spray and brush it with this time?
 
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Old 05-13-15, 12:14 PM
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Pump up garden sprayer? airless? HVLP? or conventional spray gun [uses air compressor]?

I normally use an airless along with backrolling. Often I'll spray on the stain, backroll and then spray again to insure a good long wearing coat. I'm not convinced there is any real benefit from spraying the underside although if the deck is high enough for it to show I'll usually spray on light coat to make it look nice.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 12:32 PM
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It was a pump sprayer (says Roundup).
 
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Old 05-13-15, 12:37 PM
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They'll only spray the extra thin deck coatings like Thompson's WaterSeal. Those types of coating don't usually have a long life The viscosity of the better deck coatings won't allow them to be sprayed thru a pump up garden sprayer.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 01:54 PM
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czizzi. I've been reading your comment for 20 minutes and I can not for the life of me figure out what you are describing. It's an outside corner first of all so I'm not sure what you mean. Can you link to a picture?
 
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Old 05-13-15, 02:37 PM
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It's an outside corner first of all
From your perspective of standing on the deck, it is an inside corner, but that is just meaningless to the discussion.

Right now, the outside portions of your railing system has nothing solid to nail your boards down to except the end grain of the 6x6's. As is apparent, that is not a reliable way to secure the handrail. Add a small section of 2x4, nailed to the 6x6 to give a solid nailing surface. See attached.

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Old 05-13-15, 02:50 PM
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I wonder if it was even Thompsons. I remember a neighbor back in VA trying to use a weed sprayer with Thompsons on a fence and it wouldn't work without being drastically thinned. Of course it also destroyed the sprayer pretty much. Don't they make specific pump sprayers for fence and deck?

As to what to use BB, I haven't had to do it in almost 10 years, I'm sure products have changed. I used to use tinted Flood CW-F(?), which seemed a decent compromise between price and performance. Dunno how well it compares now.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 02:56 PM
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There are 2 basic type wands on pump up garden sprayers, the 1 most commonly used to apply thin deck stains has a fan type tip on it. Stain will not ruin the garden sprayer unless it's not cleaned out properly, often that means pumping some paint thinner thru it. IMO no pump garden sprayer is adequate for coating a deck!
 
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Old 05-13-15, 03:58 PM
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Checking (spliting) of the 4 X 4's is normal and not going to effect anything.
The top rails are always a gamble, some pressure treated lumber just does that, not much a builder can do about it.
What I try to do is hand pick each piece, I'd never have used the pieces with all the knots as a railing.
I also order the materials a week ahead of time and lay them out to see which ones curled up and set them aside.
One thing I also often do is install composite deck boards on top of that top rail using constrution adhesive and deck screws from the under side so there's no screws showing.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 07:24 PM
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Thanks so much for the drawing czizzi! That really helped me understand.
 
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Old 05-13-15, 07:28 PM
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Just orientate the added 2x4 so that you are not screwing into end grain. Predrill the holes used to mount it to the 6x6. Then screw down from above into the solid base. That should stabilize your railing.
 
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Old 05-14-15, 04:33 AM
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CZIZZI, Thank you VERY MUCH for taking your time to create the drawing!

I will print this out along with advice from everyone who was kind enough to reply to my post; and hopefully the builder, when he comes to fix it, will consider your idea. I'll try to present it to him in a way so that he won't feel defensive and will consider your remedy. I have absolutely no business trying to do this myself. I barely know a nail from a snail.
 
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Old 05-14-15, 05:04 AM
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Although I believe my builder was experienced and well-intentioned, it doesn't appear he was as conscientious as you would have been. I suspect he, and most other builders, are forced to juggle their time between supervising multiple jobs and going the extra mile. As it is in my business, going the extra mile is sometimes financially costly.

I don't know how the builder will "fix" the railing but I hope the advice from this forum will cause him to give great attention to whatever he does. Thanks again.
 
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Old 05-14-15, 05:25 AM
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I'll use a better sprayer and equipment this time; and as much as I hate doing so, I'll go back over it with a brush and/or roller! Will this slow down the 'expected degradation' of the deck? Thanks for your advice! I'm learning a lot from this forum.
 
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Old 05-14-15, 05:35 AM
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Several things go into getting a longer lasting stain job; proper prep, proper application [including mil thickness] and quality stain. That said, with all that being equal, no coating on a deck will last as long as the same coating on siding or any other substrate that doesn't get as much weather as a deck. Most good stain jobs on decks last 3-5 yrs.
 
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Old 05-15-15, 06:44 AM
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Can you or anybody recommend a specific product and brand?
 
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Old 05-15-15, 07:25 AM
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Cabot, Silkens and SuperDeck all have good reputations. I've had good results with SWP's DeckScapes although I understand some give them bad reviews. Generally any manufacture's top of the line deck coating will preform well.
 
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Old 05-15-15, 07:49 AM
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Thanks. I appreciate all the advise from everyone. I didn't expect this many people would respond.
 
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