Q: I am removing 20-year-old pressure-treated decking and would like to replace it with something else. I see where Home Depot is selling out all their Trex decking at a great price. After reading on the Internet about the red flags and lawsuits against the company that makes it, I am kind of leery of using it, with the mold and the black spots. What’s your opinion on it?

A: As I understand it, a homeowner who had problems with his decking filed suit against the manufacturer after the manufacturer provided only replacement material as part of the warranty claim, but no replacement labor. I have no way of knowing whether or not that’s true, so I can’t comment on that specific case.

(Editor’s note: Trex Co. Inc. announced on July 31 that it had settled a class-action lawsuit filed in California, in which two customers claimed their decks suffered from surface flaking and that Trex failed to provide adequate remedies. Trex said a manufacturing problem affected "a small percentage of product" manufactured in its Fernley, Nev., plant beginning in 2003 and that the issue had been remediated. Under the terms of the settlement, Trex said it would fully honor its warranty by replacing product, and provide partial reimbursement of labor expenses to affected consumers.)

I will say, however, that this has been an issue that I’ve had with many manufacturers for a long time. I feel that if a manufacturer is going to produce a product and sell it to a consumer, and that the product fails even if the consumer can prove that he installed it according to the manufacturer’s specific instructions, then the manufacturers shouldn’t hide behind fine print in their warranties. They should stand behind their product 100 percent.

At one point, I was a definite proponent of synthetic decking. Now, while I would never recommend against it, I’m no longer quite as sold on it. My best advice would be to have a long talk with the dealer and the manufacturer. Be sure you fully understand the warranty, and what it does and doesn’t cover. Ask to see installations in your area that have been in place for several years, and talk to the homeowners who own them. Decks are a huge investment, so you really need to do your homework, and don’t rely just on an attractive price.

Q: The wood-burning fireplace in my condo unit that I have not used in the six years I’ve lived there is in a room being used as a dining room. The firebox appears to be crooked, out of alignment with the actual interior wall, and I have had the interior opening covered with a piece of plywood and sealed with duct tape. (This is all hidden behind a dining room buffet.) I will be selling my unit in the next two years. Should I go ahead and have the thing inspected and repaired now, even though I am not going to use it?

A: I would definitely recommend that you do exactly that. Have a licensed fireplace technician, mason, chimney sweep, or other qualified professional do a thorough inspection of the fireplace and make any repairs necessary to ensure that the unit is fully functional and up to current code. Fireplaces are a very popular selling feature, so I would also have everything cleaned and the duct tape residue removed so that the fireplace is as attractive as possible, and move your buffet to another location during the selling process.

Hang onto any reports, building permits and receipts that you acquire along the way, and have them ready for potential buyers. All of this will help you in selling your condo, and keep you from having to deal with any liability issues down the road.

Q: I have a 4-year-old cedar deck, and only Behr products have been used. To date, the deck has continued to display many areas where the Behr preservative does not adhere to the cedar boards so the deck looks old and worn. My contractor has used the Behr products to clean the boards each year before reapplying the deck preservative, but within six months, the old, worn, "stripped" pattern returns. Wherever the deck boards have been under cover such as under the barbecue or the table and chairs with their winter cover, the stain is fine, but wherever the boards have been exposed to the elements, the old, worn look appears.

I should mention that the railings are redwood and they do not display this same worn look, nor have they been re-stained each time the deck boards were redone. Do I need to replace the cedar boards or do you have any other suggestions?

A: It sounds like what’s happening could be the result of mill glaze. When the boards are run through the planer at the mill to smooth and size them, the pressure of the equipment rollers can compress the wood fibers, making the top of the board smooth and shiny — that’s the "mill glaze" — which makes it harder for them to accept stain. For that reason, it’s always a good practice to sand the new decking boards after they’re installed, prior to applying any finish. The redwood boards on the railing would have come from a different mill than the cedar and would have been milled with different equipment, so it’s possible that they did not have the mill glaze to begin with.

There is no reason to replace the boards. There’s a product made by Wolman called Deck & Fence Brightener that works well on mill glaze, and might do the trick for you. The other option would be to simply sand the boards to remove both the mill glaze and the old finish, and then refinish them with an oil-based deck stain that has UV (ultraviolet) protection. Talk with the folks at your local paint store, explain your project to them, and go with their product recommendation.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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