Q: I recently purchased a home. I have a deck that is more than 600 square feet and needs some repair, such as replacing rotting wood. The person who built the deck used nails, not screws. The nails are popping up in some places. Also, I am concerned how the deck will look with partially replaced wood. The color won’t be the same.

I can’t replace the whole deck because of the expense. I would like to sell the house in five years or so and move to a different part of the country. Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated. –Connie D.

A: You need to be thinking about safety first, so begin by carefully and thoroughly evaluating the deck to see what its condition is and what needs to be replaced.

I hate to make a bad situation worse for you, but if you have rotting deck boards, there’s a possibility that you may have some rotten or damaged support framing as well. The fact that the nails aren’t holding is another indicator of that. You definitely don’t want to put a Band-Aid on the deck by replacing a few deck boards over support framing that’s unsafe and unstable, so you need to determine that first. If the joists or other framing that support the deck need to be replaced, you may not have any choice about removing all of the deck boards, so the color matching becomes a moot point.

If it turns out you’re only replacing some of the boards, then you want to be sure that you select boards of the same size and wood species. After the new boards are in place, work your way around over the entire deck and remove any loose nails. Pull them straight up and out, using a thin scrap of wood or metal under the pry bar to prevent damaging the deck boards. Replace the nails with new, longer, all-weather screws that are made for deck use.

To get a color match, consider having the entire deck sanded and stained with a UV-resistant deck stain. This will offer good protection for the wood, will blend the colors, and will keep the deck looking rich. Done correctly, the deck will become a resale asset to the home when you go to sell it.

Q: I’m going be having some hip surgery soon, and I’d like to install grab bars in my older tile shower. How do I do that so they’ll be secure, and also not break any tiles? –Ellen R.

A: The grab bar has to be attached to something solid, such as a stud. It can’t be screwed directly to the tile, or attached with anchors. Some stud finders will work though tile, or if you have a drywall area above the tile, you can locate the studs there. When you know where the stud is, mark the mounting hole locations for the grab bar. You can install the grab bar vertically so both ends are on the same stud, or at an angle so each end is on an adjacent stud.

Use a masonry bit that’s larger in diameter than the diameter of the screws you’ll be using to fasten the grab bar, and drill a hole through the tile at each of the mounting locations. The reason for doing this is so that the mounting screws will pass through the tile without binding up. Just drill through the tile and whatever mortar is behind it, not into the stud itself. You’ll know you’ve drilled far enough when you stop seeing mortar dust coming out of the hole while you’re drilling.

Switch to a smaller, standard bit and drill pilot holes in the stud, whatever size is correct for the mounting screws you’re using. Squirt a small dab of clear silicone into each of the holes in the tile. Hold the grab bar in place, and attach it to the wall with the mounting screws. The silicone will keep moisture from getting into the wall and damaging the wall framing. Install the trim rings on the grab bars, and you’re done.

Incidentally, the grab bars are probably going to be tax deductible as a medical expense. Hang onto all your receipts and give them to your accountant at the end of the year.

Q: I live in a townhome. My master bedroom has a common wall with my neighbor’s master bedroom. I hear all kinds of things and am desperate to find a soundproofing solution. I’ve heard of QuietRock soundproof drywall; however, it’s expensive and I don’t want to spend a lot of money on something that may not be sufficiently effective. Do you know if QuietRock drywall is effective in blocking noise? Or do you have any other suggestions for soundproofing? –Lynn G.

A: While I don’t have any personal experience with installing QuietRock, everything I’ve heard about the product is very good. My understanding is that, while it is expensive, it compares favorably to other soundproofing methods when you take the additional labor of other methods into consideration.

I would suggest that you talk with a licensed drywall contractor who’s experienced with sound issues; your local drywall supplier will have some recommendations of good contractors. Have one or two visit your house and evaluate the situation, and offer specific suggestions for your particular home. Also, if the home is less than 1 year old, I would also talk with the original building contractor, since you may have some warranty help available as well.

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