The Challenges of Refurbishing a Deck

Featuring Brendan Casey from Casey Fence & Deck

Brendan Casey Call Out

Award winning deck builder Brendan Casey discusses the challenges he faces when refurbishing an existing deck, and some of the questionable framing methods left behind by previous builders.

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Bren­dan Casey, founder of Casey Fence & Deck in Fred­er­ick, MD, is a mas­ter in resur­fac­ing exist­ing deck struc­tures to breathe life back into an out­door space. This has led to mul­ti­ple nation­al awards, includ­ing an award in the cat­e­go­ry of refur­bished decks at the 2022 NADRA Nation­al+ Deck Awards.

Over the last 42 years of build­ing decks, Bren­dan has seen it all — from rot­ted lum­ber com­pro­mis­ing the struc­tur­al integri­ty of a deck, to some ques­tion­able fram­ing meth­ods left behind by pre­vi­ous builders. We spoke with Bren­dan to break it all down and dis­cuss the chal­lenges he runs into when resur­fac­ing a deck on top of exist­ing framing.

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What made your award-winning re-deck so special?

That was a crazy job. It was all on a cliff over a lake, a beau­ti­ful set­ting, a wood­ed lot.

When we got out there, I walked out on the deck and I thought we were going to be able to resur­face it with­out replac­ing the fram­ing. But, when I got to the low­er lev­el, we found that we need­ed to replace about 20 joists because there was a lot of rot in that area. So we account­ed for it, we planned it and we replaced it.

There was also a big band board all the way around the deck that was not in great shape. So we actu­al­ly got out there with Ledger­LOKs and shot them through the band board to draw it back in, to make every­thing look right and hold right.

We even changed the board pat­tern, which orig­i­nal­ly ran par­al­lel to the house. We switched it and made it run par­al­lel to the rail­ing, which gave it just a lit­tle bit more character.

We had to do a lot of unique lit­tle on-the-job things to make stuff work. It was a cool job and obvi­ous­ly a nice bonus that it won us a nation­al award.”



How do you prepare for refurbishing a deck?

We will do an inspec­tion before we go out and before we would con­tract any­thing. When I look at the job, I walk out on the deck and I bounce up and down and if I feel a lot of move­ment under­neath my feet, I tell them they’re not a can­di­date for resur­fac­ing. I can just feel it – You have to go with your gut in those situations.

If I can walk under the deck, I’ll get under­neath it with my knife and I will jab into some of the joists. If my knife is sink­ing into a lot of the joists, I’m telling them they’re replac­ing all of the joists. I go around the cor­ners and see if the posts are rot­ting. If I have to replace the posts, I’m replac­ing the whole deck. We try to find a way to make it work for them, but some­times you just can’t resurface.

Some­times I tell them [the cus­tomer] that we def­i­nite­ly need to re-frame por­tions or a major­i­ty of the deck, and they say they won’t do that. So, we end up walk­ing away from more than 25% of jobs. The minute we start debat­ing, I bail out. We want peo­ple to hire us because they want us, not because of the price of the job. We want them to hire us because of our knowl­edge and our experience.”

What are some of the worst situations you’ve encountered on a deck upon inspection?

I was inspect­ing this one deck, and I was walk­ing around it, try­ing to find out why it was so cock­eyed and out of whack. Then I saw this split­ting wedge hold­ing up the whole deck. She [the home­own­er] met with some oth­er con­trac­tors and was on the verge of sign­ing a con­tract to resur­face the deck — she didn’t even know. I showed it to her, and that con­vinced her to let us tear the whole thing out.”

Anoth­er time, I found that some­body used a flow­er­pot with some con­crete in it to hold up a stair­case. The home­own­ers were upset when they saw it — they hadn’t noticed it either. It’s amaz­ing the things you’ll find when you go looking.”

What fasteners do you use when replacing the framing on a deck?

We account for a buck­et of Ledger­LOKs on every deck, that is a stan­dard order for our jobs. We go through those things like guys use gun nails — because I trust them.

So when we’re try­ing to draw togeth­er pieces of fram­ing, we’re using Ledger­LOKs. We’re not going to nail it, we’re not going to screw it. We’re going to break out Ledger­LOKs. When we take out all the old rail­ings, we put a six by six block of wood between the two joists under­neath where the post is going to go. Then we use five inch Ledger­LOKs going into both joists, two on each end into that block of wood.”


Ledger­LOK is a ½” lag replace­ment designed for fas­ten­ing ledger boards to the house. It can also be used for a vari­ety of oth­er appli­ca­tions due to its high lev­el of strength and durable exte­ri­or coat­ing. Fas­ten­Mas­ter also offers sev­er­al oth­er struc­tur­al fas­ten­ers for deck builders — includ­ing Tim­ber­LOK, Head­LOK, Ver­sa­LOK and Thru­LOK.

How do you set yourself apart from other builders?

One of the things we real­ized when we first start­ed the busi­ness was that there was so much com­pe­ti­tion out there. We could either be the shep­herd or the sheep, and there were hun­dreds of sheep, and I just did­n’t want to be a part of the pack, and that men­tal­i­ty of rac­ing every­body to the cheap­est price. We chose to be the shep­herd and lead the pack.

When I show up at some­body’s house and see that blank can­vas on the back of a house and a pile of mate­r­i­al sit­ting in the dri­ve­way – I strive to make it into a piece of art­work on the back of their home. I’ve always felt like there was an artis­tic val­ue to what we did.

There’s over 500 guys with­in 50 miles of my base of oper­a­tion that claim to build decks. I can’t com­pete with 500 guys. I can com­pete with two or three, but my biggest com­peti­tor is me.”


Check out more of Brendan’s work on his web­site, on Insta­gram, or check out his award win­ning builds, fea­tured in the NADRA 2022 Nation­al+ Deck Awards.