- Michele Pasch
How To Identify and Fix Home Deck and Patio Problems in Wilmington, NC
Updated: Sep 2, 2022
You can Fix Some Problems, Others Require a Professional
When something goes wrong with your deck or patio, should you attempt a DIY fix, call a pro, or just go for something new entirely? We’ll help you diagnose your deck and patio disorders and determine the best remedy.
If you’re starting to see signs of wear and tear — or outright trouble — on your deck or patio, what should your next step be? As a general guideline, cosmetic damage can be a DIY fix, but structural damage generally requires the advice and skills of a professional to correct. If you start with construction done properly in the first place, you’re a lot less likely to have issues. But if that isn’t the case, paying for professional expertise is always advisable. Sometimes even starting over can be an easier proposition than fixing it all.
Here’s our advice for some common problems you may experience, starting with hardscaping:
Wooden & Trex Decks
Peeling or faded sealant. Fix it yourself, and do it promptly (every two years is a good rule of thumb) so that all the wood is evenly protected.
Moss and lichen growth. Fix it yourself, via power washing, to avoid slippery walking surfaces, but be careful not to use too much pressure. (If you aren’t sure of what you’re doing and don’t want to risk damaging your deck, it’s perfectly acceptable to call a pro for this job.) Overzealous power washing can scratch up the surface of the wood, inviting even more growth over time.
Missing, warped, or cracked boards. As long as you are competent in repairing minor board damage, and as long as the problem is small or isolated, we say go for it! When the problem is small, the solution too will be smaller and more manageable. If you can add a new fastener or two, or replace some damaged boards, and the deck is good to go with no leaning or swaying, then you are ok for a while. But if small fixes don’t eliminate movement or you feel like there is a bigger underlying issue, contact Avocet Design Build for help.
Spongy decking underfoot. Call a pro. If the problem is widespread enough that it can’t be corrected by replacing a few boards, you’re looking at a real safety hazard that requires professional attention.
Swaying or leaning. Also, call a professional in this case. Unless your deck is six inches or less off the ground, there are very few instances where you should tackle this on your own. Even if the problem can be fixed, by installing an angle bracing, for example, you need a professional to determine whether repair or replacement is in order and safe for continual use.
Loose, undersized, or rotten posts. Call a pro. If your posts are an isolated problem and the deck is in otherwise good shape, you may be able to repair the posts rather than replace the entire deck, but shoring up the deck properly so it doesn’t collapse while you’re working requires experience.
Wobbly railing or stairs. If your handrails or steps wobble or lean under pressure, consult a professional ASAP, even if you think the problem looks simple to fix. It’s a safety issue that must be handled according to building codes. The experts at Avocet Design Build
Stone and Concrete Patios
Dirty or moldy surface. This is one fix you can perform yourself, and it may be as simple as a scrub with mild detergent. But if you have a stubborn mold problem we recommend pressure washing first, then getting down on your hands and knees to sponge the surface with a very dilute mixture of muriatic acid and water. (Muriatic acid is available at hardware stores or pool supply stores; be sure to wear gloves and safety glasses as you work.) A final pressure wash when you’re done should leave you with a bright, clean surface.
Broken, uneven, or sunken pavers. In general, it is recommended that you call a professional. Man-made pavers are typically installed on a base of gravel and sand, and although it’s fairly easy for a professional to reinstall that base to correct calibration, it’s much less so for a homeowner unless you have had experience.
Weeds in joints. This is one that a homeowner could tackle themselves. Although experts advise, “Keep a handle on weeds because once they get out of control, it becomes a big job.” Keep your patio swept free of dirt buildup that can harbor seeds, and pull any weeds you see immediately. A caveat: if the same weeds keep coming back, resist the urge to pull and use an herbicidal spray instead which kills the roots via contact with the leaves. After the weed is nice and brown, then you’re cleared to pull it up.
Hairline cracks in concrete. Leave it alone. A hairline crack is acceptable by industry standards — it’s generally an aesthetic problem only. It’s a really tough thing to fix. You could put grout or cement in the crack yourself, but it won’t always look the best or look as it did when brand new.
Heaved concrete. With structural damage or noticeable compromise of the concrete’s integrity, it’s best left with experienced hands. Concrete shouldn’t heave, but if your patio is heaving, there’s definitely an issue, and removing it is the only option most time. Although it’s technically possible to replace a small section that has been damaged, it won’t match the old section, and you won’t resolve the underlying problem.
Brick mortar popping out. Fixing it yourself is possible, but know it might be a temporary solution. Brick is typically laid on a base of concrete, and broken or missing mortar may indicate that the base is compromised and needs to be redone. If you elect to repair it yourself, be sure to clean the patio thoroughly first so that you can accurately match sand colors for your new batch of mortar.
Fixing isolated problems, like replacing a single bad board, is something you can do yourself, but leave structural problems to the professionals. At Avocet Design Build, we have seen it all in the industry. We can help with troubleshooting and are hands-on-deck throughout any calamitous repair or replacement.
For any and all of these patio and deck issues, it is a good idea to contact and talk to a professional. Our team at Avocet Design Build has been serving the Wilmington, North Carolina area and surrounding neighborhoods for many years. We have seen it all and can give you the tailored advice you need for your home upkeep. Call or visit our website today to talk to a pro about your home project.