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Why Are My Deck Boards Rotting So Quickly?

Why Are My Deck Boards Rotting So Quickly? Deck Wood Rot Repair with ProMaster

Here at ProMaster, we perform deck wood rot repair numerous times a year in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. One of the most common questions we get is “why are my deck boards rotting so quickly?” There are many reasons wooden decks suffer from wood rot, so it is important to identify the correct reason before taking action to rectify it. Otherwise, a simple fix can turn into a full deck repair or replacement. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Are insects or animals causing the wood rot? If the answer is “yes” then you must contact an exterminator/specialist to take care of the infestation before deck repair can begin.
  2. Is the damage water related? Can you see water pooling on the wood? Does it feel damp? Are there cracks in the wood? If so, water buildup inside the wood could be causing the wood to rot.
  3. Is the damage to just the surface boards or are the frames damaged as well? If only the surface is damaged and it is caught early, some simple deck maintenance could be sufficient. This could include a power wash and seal. If the frames are damaged, however, more extensive repairs may be required.

Factors That Can Make Deck Wood Rot Repair Necessary

Deck Wood Rot Repair

Galvanic Rot can lead to damage and may require deck repairs to be made.

Deck Wood Rot Repair

Cracks like this can make it easier for water to penetrate into the boards and cause damage.

Galvanic Rot

If your deck boards are rotting, there could be a few reasons why. The first is what is called Galvanic Rot. Galvanic rot occurs when galvanized nails or screws are driven into pressure treated lumber. The chemicals in the wood react with the nails causing oxidation.  This leads to corrosion within the boards. The only solution to fix galvanic rot is to remove and replace the affected boards from the deck, thus preventing the spread of the rot.

Water Damage

Another reason your deck boards are rotting is water damage. When decks are first built many contractors will not pay attention to the crown of the wood. After the wood has been set over time, it will either bow and the center of the wood will raise or it will cup and the wood will sag. If all the boards are not set the same way it can cause the boards to become uneven which is not only unsightly but can be dangerous. Cupped boards tend to get cracks in them, which makes it easier for water to penetrate the wood and cause rot to form from the inside.

If you have a good carpenter build your deck (like the craftsmen at ProMaster), they will be able to examine the grain and build the deck in a manner which minimizes the pooling and cracking of the wood so that your deck will last longer.

What Can I Do To Prevent This?

Deck Wood Rot Repair

See the difference a coat of sealant can make to your deck.

Decks will inevitably need repairs at some point. The nice thing is, with regular maintenance, you can save your deck from needing a more costly repair. It will also greatly prolong the life of your deck.

Most people recommend decks be resealed every 2-3 years. This will vary depending on usage, weather, and type of wood used. You don’t necessarily need professional to seal your deck, and we even have a video on how you can do it yourself. When it comes to sealing decks, it is important to know what type of sealant is best for your application. If the boards on your deck are cracked or will be holding lots of water you will want to select a sealer that is high in urethane content. You can also use paint to seal the deck or even use an acrylic sealer. Regardless, basic maintenance is necessary to prevent your deck boards from rotting.

What Can I Do If My Deck Has Already Started Rotting?

Deck Wood Rot Repair

Deck rot can lead to costly repairs unless caught early.

If your deck boards are already rotting, that doesn’t mean that a full deck repair is necessary. It does mean, however, that deck wood rot repair needs to be performed as soon as possible to prevent the rot from spreading. As long as the deck’s integrity has not been compromised, you may only need to repair some of the boards. If the supports are rotting the repair may be more substantial.

Deck Boards Rotting? Call ProMaster!

If your wooden deck boards are rotting, be sure to contact the Home Repair Heroes at ProMaster! We would love to help get your deck back to looking its best, while also keeping your family safe. Just call 513-322-2914, schedule online, or use the “Reach Out” form at the bottom of this page.


  1. William Gegenheimer says

    Just curious, If I were to paint the top boards on all 4 sides and the two ends prior to putting the board down and seal the nail holes will that prolong the life of the deck? If so by how long would you estimate? I built a pretty large deck which is about 35′ by 40′ which goes out from my house and around my 32′ by 16′ pool..Every few years I find myself having to power wash and restain or paint the deck as well as replace numerous boards and its getting very tiresome..seems Im working on the deck more time then Im enjoying it. So I have been debating using Trex or boards again painting them as mentioned earlier…The trex is very expensive and I am afraid that wont last since I have heard stories of that failing as well..Id hate to spend $10,000 on trex to have it fail in 5 10 years! What would you recommmend that would be the least maintenance? Any info would be greatly appreciated!

    • Jacob Addison says

      Hi William, the biggest issue with pre-staining or pre-painting your deck boards is that the boards can’t be stained when new. They must acclimate and dry for a period of weeks before they will accept stain or paint. In most cases, you’ll need to paint or stain your deck after the boards are installed.

    • I have a similar concern. we’re about to replace a cedar deck that rotted from below as it is 3″ off the surface of a shaded area behind our house after 20 years. Would sealing the underside prior to replacement be advisable and then sealing the surface lead to less issues down the line?

      • Jacob Addison says

        Hi Michael, unfortunately that still faces the same issue, as pre-staining or pre-painting your deck boards when new isn’t adviseable. They must acclimate and dry for a period of weeks before they will accept stain or paint. This is the primary reason that staining is done after installation.

        • Howard Shirk says

          When I replace deck boards, I lay the new ones out in the sun for several days across my trailer rails and turn them several times. If there is rain, I wait a few more days. I then only paint the tops and sides of the boards before installing so that any retained moisture has a way to escape. Since old decks lose their luster, I eventually coat them with a good opaque porch/garage floor paint. I do not work for Home Depot, but I have foung their Behr porch paint to be superior.

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