The weather is warming up and you’re thinking about spending a lot more time outdoors, but has your deck seen better days? A wooden deck made of cedar can last up to 40 years, but if it hasn’t been well-maintained, it’s lifespan can be cut down to 15 years or less. Over time, wood can rot and warp, so if you notice that some of your boards look splintered or bowing, it might be time to knock it down.

Signs Your Deck Needs Torn Down

According to Brandon Barski of Barski Hardscaping, the top signs that your deck needs to be removed or replaced are:

Fasteners popping: Due to natural causes, your deck boards will dry out over time from sunlight and start to splinter, so your nails and screws will pop up and bolts can become loose. 

Soft spots: If you notice dark brown or green soft spots on your deck boards, this can be a sign of rot. 

Bouncy boards: Try the trampoline test – stand in the middle of your deck and jump. Does it feel bouncy? The bounce may be a side effect to cracked or rotted boards and you’ll need to inspect the frame underneath.

Before starting your deck demolition, make sure to have a plan in place for replacing your deck since removing it will leave a massive void between your doorway and the ground below.

Getting Ready to Demolish Your Wood Deck

Ripping down your wooden deck might seem like a pretty big job, but even a beginner DIYer can get it knocked out in a Saturday if you approach the job systematically and make a plan – and it won’t hurt to gather a few friends to help make the process go faster.

A few things you should do before you start to tear down your deck are:

  • Clear your deck off.
  • Find a place to keep your patio furniture, grill, etc.
  • Donate your unwanted items to your local Goodwill.
  • Bring any broken items to the curb or dispose of them in your dumpster rental if you have one for your deck debris.
  • Prepare a budget and gather any necessary permits.

 

North American Deck and Railing Association logo.

“Before starting to take down your deck, make sure to protect the space below your deck, especially if you have a walk-out basement. Cover the doors and windows. You will also want to consider protecting the landscaping around the deck area.”

 

Matthew Breyer | NADRA

What’s the Cost of Removing My Deck?

Depending on the size, most homeowners will pay between $5 and $15 per square foot for deck removal costs according to HomeAdvisor.com. If your deck has heavier components like metal railings or is multi-story, the cost may be toward the higher-end of that range.

Do I Need a Permit to Demo My Deck?

Removing your deck should not require a permit, but it’s never a bad idea to double-check with your local building code office. If you plan on rebuilding a new deck in the future, obtaining a permit from your local office allows both your building plans and list of materials to be reviewed against the specific conditions of the location the deck will be built, ensuring it will perform as needed for a long time.

Barski Hardscaping logo.

“It’s important to know what is going to replace your torn down deck. You’ll want to have the approved plans in hand and ready to go for the new space as most municipalities will not let a safety issue go for to long until you risk a violation.”

Brandon Barski | Barski Hardscaping

Deck Demolition Tools and Safety Equipment

Make sure you have the tools and safety gear needed to complete removing your deck. Everything you need should be available at your local hardware or home improvement store if you don’t have them already.

  • Pry Bar
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Sledgehammer
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Shovel
  • Work Gloves
  • Protective Glasses
  • Closed-Toe Shoes

Old wooden deck boards with hammer and nails.

Demolishing Your Deck in Seven Steps

Decks are most commonly built from bottom to top and you should follow the same strategy for removing one. Reversing the order of your deck’s initial assembly will be the easiest way to deconstruct it. Nailed together deck boards are easier to rip apart than screwed on boards, but having the right tools on-hand will take care of both.

Safety Tip: Lock the doors leading out to your deck so no one accidentally walks out as it’s being removed.

1. Take Down the Handrails

Once your deck is totally clear, you can begin with removing the rails. Work from one end of your deck to the other starting with the top railings, the balusters and the bottom rails. Use a crowbar if they are nailed together, or reverse the screws with a drill if they’re screwed together. Keep an empty jar handy to drop loose screws and nails in as you work.

North American Deck and Railing Association logo.

“Check your local code officials to see if fall protection is needed to remove a deck in your city. Depending on the size of your deck, scaffolding is often a better work platform than having a ladder leaning against a deck that is being torn down.”

Matthew Breyer | NADRA

2. Pry Off the Deck Boards

The best way to remove deck boards is to start on one side, pull the deck boards up and go one-by-one to the other side of the deck. You can do this with a pry bar and claw hammer, removing the screws. Make sure you continue to collect your nails and screws.

3. Cut the Deck Frame Away from Your House

Using a reciprocating saw, cut the frame apart from the board fastened to the home. Do this slowly and allow the weight to pull it away from the house. After all of the deck boards are removed, the main frame board connected to the house will be next. Stack like-sized deck boards together for better organization.

4. Cut Joists Off

Using your sledgehammer, strike the ends of the floor joists where they are fastened to the hangers. If that doesn’t work, you can use your reciprocating saw at both ends.

5. Remove Hanger Boards

Pry the hanger boards away from the foundation and break all the outer hanger boards off the deck support posts with the sledgehammer.

6. Dig Out Support Posts

Dig around the concrete footings with a shovel and pull back and forth on the deck support posts until they can be pulled from the ground. You may need to use a wheelbarrow or grab a friend to help haul them away.

7. Pull the Steps Apart

If the steps are still intact, pry the treads up with your pry bar and remove the risers and support posts.

What to Do with Old Deck Boards

Once your deck is completely torn down, you’ll be left with a lot of lumber. There are quite a few options you have on what to do with your wood from upcycling to disposing of what’s too beat up to reuse in another project.

  1. Create DIY Picture or Art Frames: If some of your deck boards are three-fourths to one inch thick, they are the perfect size for a photo frame. Leave them worn or sand them depending on what style you’re going for.
  2. Use Them for Interior Trim Projects: Cut the trim so the weathered side is exposed for the rustic look. Build a mantel with a single piece of deck board and trim it out using the same material. If you want more smooth, decorative edges, you can sand it to duplicate any type of trim molding you would find at the store.
  3. Build Raised Plant Beds: Screw together deck boards to build raised planter beds you can fill with dirt. The boxes range anywhere from 18 to 48 inches or more in depth.
  4. Reuse Them in Your New Deck: If you are planning to build a new deck to replace your old one, you can use any of the old deck boards still in good condition to make a handrail for your new deck.
  5. Rent a Dumpster to Get Rid of Them: If you aren’t feeling creative, your wood isn’t in good condition or there’s just too much of it to use up, you can rent a dumpster to dispose of your debris from your deck demolition project in a residential dumpster.

Barski Hardscaping logo.“Proper disposal is important with deck debris or other building materials. Pressure treated lumber has many harmful chemicals you should not be around for too long or burn. Rusty nails or bolts that have been holding it together over the years can also be dangerous to handle and can be harmful to the environment. The safest and most efficient way to dispose of your deck materials is to rent a dumpster so you don’t have to handle the debris more than you need to.”

Brandon Barski | Barski Hardscaping

Keep in mind: you can rent a dumpster to get rid of stained deck boards in most areas, but disposal regulations vary from place to place. It’s always a good idea to call ahead to verify.

More Ways to Give Your Home a Summer Upgrade

Now that you’ve successfully removed your old deck, are you looking for additional projects to take on while the weather is still nice? Here are a few other options to consider: