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Deck Repair With An Oscillating Tool

It may be easier than you think to do a little fix-up work around the house, especially on that great get-away place—the deck. Decks need TLC too—particularly if those boards are exposed and regularly face wind, rain and heat. Construction expert Joe Sainz has a few tips for homeowners who want to do their own deck maintenance correctly and safely using a single tool.

Smart Deck Repair

Even the best-protected deck boards are susceptible to twisting, rotting or cupping. And usually it’s that board in the middle of a 30-foot run that’s the issue. A pry bar or a claw hammer can be used to remove the compromised piece, but it’s easy to injure boards around it. The smart option is to do some strategic cutting.

Deck Repair With An Oscillating Tool

A multi-tool, such as the Bosch Multi-X and its many cutting blades, is well suited for this job. Start by using the tool with a wood-cutting blade to remove a board section between the joists to allow access, then make a quick change to a metal-cutting blade and get between the remaining boards to cut the nail or screw fastener.

Deck Repair With An Oscillating Tool

Deck Repair With An Oscillating Tool

Once the board is removed measure the opening, cut a new piece of treated lumber and attach with a galvanized fastener. Be sure to allow for 1⁄8-inch expansion. Now that’s a repair that saves both time and money. And this process can be used on handrails as well.

 Deck Repair With An Oscillating Tool

Deck Repair With An Oscillating Tool

Save the Stairs

Stairs face the same heat and weather abuse that deck boards do, so they can easily become cupped, with the front of the step higher than the remainder surface. This is another job for the multi-tool. There are a couple of options for reworking your existing stair. Using the rasp accessory work down the high spot at the front of the stair, then follow up with a sanding triangle to smooth the surface. An alternative for addressing high corners is to place a segmented cutting blade flat on the stair and then push it toward the high spot to cut away the excess; sand to smooth the surface.

Deck Repair With An Oscillating Tool

If you are interested in more project tips, visit the Idea Box.

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10 comments on “Deck Repair With An Oscillating Tool

  1. Jeff

    the oscillating tool works great for board replacement. most often i will start the cut with a circ saw then finsish with the oscilator..

    the only problem ive had with the multi tool is that i cant find blades locally that actually can cut nails and keep cutting.. the few times i have cut nails with it they end up wrecking the blade, its easier to work the board loose from the framing then pull them out

  2. Dave

    Use treated lumber? Possibly. if it matches, otherwise match the existing material (e.g., cedar or redwood)
    Use a galvanized fastener? If the existing fastening system is a proprietary one, use it. If the existing fasteners are stainless or coated, match them.
    Cut the fasteners with the oscillating blade? First, attempt to unscrew the screws or pull the nails. This is more important if the fasteners were deliberately aligned when the deck was first installed. You may have to reuse the holes.
    Leave a 1/8″ gap? That depends on the heat, humidity, and time of year. It should also be noted that there is very little movement along a board’s length, but sometime there is significant expansion and contraction along the width.
    If the wood is stained, varnished, or otherwise finished, it might be a lot easier to do this before assembly.

  3. RON

    Interesting technique- I also watsched a similar repair to a hardwood floor. I have a different problem. I installed an EON (plastic composite, with hidden hold-downs) deck on supposedly preasure treated joists. several of the joists, including a stair support are dry-rotting. Any thoughts about impregnating remaining wood or a repair short of tearing the entire deck apart??

    1. Bill Lewis

      Look at the Abatron site. I use the Liquid Wood and then the WoodEpox to repair small areas of dry rot. First I gouge out the area to clean out the dryrot. Then I treat with a mildewcide. I actually use a mixture of antifreeze, borax, and boric acid. Let it soak in and dry. Then use the Liquid wood and while still tacky fill with the WoodEpox. I use lacquer thinner to clean the tools. The WoodEpox is not structural so if the damage is severe, you will need to sister the stringers or joists. I top it with Vicor or builder’s felt but don’t seal it too much down the sides where it can trap water.
      Good Luck.

  4. Jason

    I have been looking for other uses for my Oscillating multi-tool and this is a great idea. This seems like the perfect application for a tool that can do a perfect plunge cut. Great article, thank you.

  5. Christopher

    Nice post! Never thought of repairing a deck this way. The uses of the Bosch oscillating tool is simple amazing. I’ve used it to remove sealants mostly. Would like to give this a try!

  6. Brian

    Yes I have tried to cut a couple of cement nails that held down my shed wall on the cement base, ( because the cement had chipped and the wall for the door had bowed) anyway the multi tool basicaly just vibrated and did not cut the nail at all, it just used the blade and made lots of noise. so used the old reliable sawsal went through so much better. but I know cement nails are much harder than your regular nails.

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