Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
Small Law Survivor
Posts: 570
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:36 pm

Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by Small Law Survivor » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:43 pm

The front entrance to our home has a square, deck-like area of wood with a solid-color deck stain (you can't see the wood grain at all).

There are about 20 planks, each about 6.5 feet long by 3.5 inches wide by 1" deep. Not certain, but pretty sure its pine.

This last winter some ice must have gotten worked in between two of the planks and gouged out some wood where the planks meet. Or, something else did the damage.

Rather than hire someone to help me replace the two planks and re-stain them, I'm thinking I might try to work some wood filler into this spot, stain over it, and see how it looks. If that doesn't work out, I'll go to plan "B".

However, I'm wondering -

- is this a reasonable thing to try, or should I just replace the boards?
- if it is worth trying, what is the best wood filler to use for this job?
- any other recommendations on how to do this right?

Thanks in advance.

User avatar
dodecahedron
Posts: 3737
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:28 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by dodecahedron » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:47 pm

If you are going to live there long term, I would seriously consider replacing the whole deck with Trex composite decking.

daheld
Posts: 320
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:14 am

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by daheld » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:52 pm

The biggest issue you'll likely have is getting stain to match. If you fill in a gouged out, damaged area with woody putty and stain it, it wont match the rest of the deck. If you replace a couple boards, they won't match the rest of the boards.

Filling with wood putty will work for a while, but it'll eventually dry out and come off I would guess. That would work as long as you're not real concerned with appearance.

A couple years ago, I completely stripped a small deck (probably 10' x 8' with rails, spindles, and a few stairs) and completely repainted and rebuilt the stairs. The hours it took me to strip all that dang paint were INSANE. It seriously took probably 80 hours of work using chemical paint stripper, a putty knife, and a handheld sander. I will not do that again.

Mjar
Posts: 133
Joined: Wed May 23, 2018 5:18 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by Mjar » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:57 pm

Not sure how big that area is that you are trying to repair but wood putty would do the trick if is small enough, put on, let it cure, if it shrinks then apply some more then sand down then re-stain the entire deck to get it to match.

If its too big of an area I would replace the planks and re-stain the entire deck.

adamthesmythe
Posts: 2292
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:47 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by adamthesmythe » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:59 pm

Wood filler will only last until winter, or maybe until the next rain.

Use a chisel or whatever to remove splinters and rough bits, give it a coat of stain, and call it done.

goaties
Posts: 270
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:15 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by goaties » Thu Jun 21, 2018 4:00 pm

I did this exact same job last year. I even got special "exterior" wood putty (Elmers, I think). After just a few months, most of it had flaked out of the gouges I had filled with it. This year, I decided to try some Gorilla Glue. No, really. I had some left over from another project and I figured "well, if this doesn't work, then I'll just replace the boards like I probably should have done!".

So far, the glue has completely filled in the gaps and hasn't shrunk at all. However, it's only been about three months. It did take three coats of stain to blend it in, because of course, it's not made to accept stain. Still, it does look decent, considering.

If you do decide to do the 'right' thing and replace the boards, be sure to let them dry well before installing. I'm finding that today's lumber bought at Home Depot and such is not at all dry, even the so-called "premium" stuff. Also, it's easier to coat the underside with stain before you install them...unless you like laying on your back under your stairs and painting above your face! (hey, some people might!)

Small Law Survivor
Posts: 570
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:36 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by Small Law Survivor » Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:25 pm

dodecahedron wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:47 pm
If you are going to live there long term, I would seriously consider replacing the whole deck with Trex composite decking.
Lived here 25 years, so not gong to go to Trex at this point.
daheld wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:52 pm
The biggest issue you'll likely have is getting stain to match. If you fill in a gouged out, damaged area with woody putty and stain it, it wont match the rest of the deck. If you replace a couple boards, they won't match the rest of the boards.
I will restain the whole deck area, no problem.
Mjar wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:57 pm
Not sure how big that area is that you are trying to repair but wood putty would do the trick if is small enough, put on, let it cure, if it shrinks then apply some more then sand down then re-stain the entire deck to get it to match.
Yup, this is what I was thinking of doing. Not too big to re-stain the whole deck.
adamthesmythe wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:59 pm
Wood filler will only last until winter, or maybe until the next rain.

Use a chisel or whatever to remove splinters and rough bits, give it a coat of stain, and call it done.
Well, if it only lasts to winter, I've postponed the problem until next spring. Sometimes kicking the can down the road is not the worst way to proceed :happy
goaties wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 4:00 pm
... This year, I decided to try some Gorilla Glue. No, really. I had some left over from another project and I figured "well, if this doesn't work, then I'll just replace the boards like I probably should have done!".

So far, the glue has completely filled in the gaps and hasn't shrunk at all. However, it's only been about three months. It did take three coats of stain to blend it in, because of course, it's not made to accept stain. Still, it does look decent, considering.

If you do decide to do the 'right' thing and replace the boards, be sure to let them dry well before installing. I'm finding that today's lumber bought at Home Depot and such is not at all dry, even the so-called "premium" stuff. Also, it's easier to coat the underside with stain before you install them...unless you like laying on your back under your stairs and painting above your face! (hey, some people might!)
Maybe Gorilla Glue will be my new Plan B, thank you! Re coating the underside - this is a front walk deck, and it's about 6 inches off the ground. Is there any need to stain the underside if it's not visible?

Thank you all for these great suggestions.

User avatar
F150HD
Posts: 1642
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2015 7:49 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by F150HD » Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:32 pm

picture?

Small Law Survivor
Posts: 570
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:36 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by Small Law Survivor » Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:35 pm

F150HD wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:32 pm
picture?
How should I do that, technically? Upload the pic to (?) and put a link here? I can't upload to BH directly, can I?

mouses
Posts: 3819
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 12:24 am

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by mouses » Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:38 pm

dodecahedron wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:47 pm
If you are going to live there long term, I would seriously consider replacing the whole deck with Trex composite decking.
Better not to use stuff that will still be filling up landfills (or the ocean, it's amazing how much non-biodegradable stuff winds up in the ocean) when the sun goes nova. Better to use natural materials.

PVW
Posts: 471
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2014 11:01 am

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by PVW » Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:30 pm

Most wood fillers won't stand up to repeated loading due to foot traffic and thermal cycling. I'm not experienced enough to recommend a good one, but if you try it, go with a durable one like epoxy - you are going to paint over it so no need to worry about color matching. "Wood filler" often means something suitable for patching small blemishes like finish nail holes, so be clear what you are doing if you ask for product advice at the hardware store.

If the gouge isn't too big, an easy fix would be to drill it out with, say, a 3/4 inch bit and then use a 3/4 dowel lathered in wood glue to plug it. Get it close to flush and then you can sand it the rest of the way. Repaint and it should look fine.

Small Law Survivor
Posts: 570
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:36 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by Small Law Survivor » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:14 pm

PVW wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:30 pm
Most wood fillers won't stand up to repeated loading due to foot traffic and thermal cycling. I'm not experienced enough to recommend a good one, but if you try it, go with a durable one like epoxy - you are going to paint over it so no need to worry about color matching. "Wood filler" often means something suitable for patching small blemishes like finish nail holes, so be clear what you are doing if you ask for product advice at the hardware store.

If the gouge isn't too big, an easy fix would be to drill it out with, say, a 3/4 inch bit and then use a 3/4 dowel lathered in wood glue to plug it. Get it close to flush and then you can sand it the rest of the way. Repaint and it should look fine.
This is a good idea! Is it possible to buy a flat (rather than a rounded) dowel?

Chip
Posts: 2278
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 4:57 am

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by Chip » Fri Jun 22, 2018 5:20 am

I agree with those who say wood filler is a bad idea. It will almost certainly flake off very quickly.

The quick fix is the earlier suggestion to clean it up with a sharp chisel and sandpaper, then restain. If you smooth out the gouge so that there aren't any obvious jagged edges your eye won't be drawn to it as much. I've done this several times on my deck and have been satisfied with the results. But I'm not sure I'd do this right at my front door.

If you end up replacing the boards the new boards will be wet from the pressure treatment (assuming you buy pressure treated pine), as an earlier poster noted. But I would NOT wait to install the boards. They will likely warp severely as they dry. I have had this happen to me many times with treated lumber -- you pick out something nice and straight in the store and a month later it looks like half a pretzel.

So install the new boards immediately. You will then have to wait a few months for them to dry out enough so you can apply the stain. It won't look very pretty but that's the right way to do it.

PVW
Posts: 471
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2014 11:01 am

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by PVW » Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:18 am

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:14 pm
PVW wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:30 pm
Most wood fillers won't stand up to repeated loading due to foot traffic and thermal cycling. I'm not experienced enough to recommend a good one, but if you try it, go with a durable one like epoxy - you are going to paint over it so no need to worry about color matching. "Wood filler" often means something suitable for patching small blemishes like finish nail holes, so be clear what you are doing if you ask for product advice at the hardware store.

If the gouge isn't too big, an easy fix would be to drill it out with, say, a 3/4 inch bit and then use a 3/4 dowel lathered in wood glue to plug it. Get it close to flush and then you can sand it the rest of the way. Repaint and it should look fine.
This is a good idea! Is it possible to buy a flat (rather than a rounded) dowel?
Home Depot (and probably other hardware stores) sells various small sizes of square and rectangular wood. You can find some poplar strips in the hardwood section and there will probably be a couple sizes in the molding section made of pine. Neither poplar or untreated pine is great for outdoor use, but if you keep them stained/painted they should last long enough.

You can use a router and chisel to make the area regular shaped and uniform depth, then cut a piece of wood to fit - sometimes called a Dutchman. But given that deck boards are cheap and easy to replace it's probably easier to replace them.

User avatar
flossy21
Posts: 434
Joined: Sun May 27, 2007 2:04 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by flossy21 » Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:29 am

If the plank that is damaged is otherwise solid then one option would be to remove the damaged plank and flip it over. You would need to sand the face of it to clean it up and then stain. It depends on if you can remove the gouged plank with out damaging it further.

Yooper16
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon Aug 21, 2017 7:44 am

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by Yooper16 » Fri Jun 22, 2018 8:47 am

If/when you replace the boards--- make sure to use the proper fastener. Use a ceramic coated exterior screw, it is not as effected by the treatment process on the wood. Galvanized screws/nails were the go to item until maybe 15-17 years ago. It was, I believe, the arsenic compound that was replaced at that time and the replacement bug killer ate through galvanized product faster than before.

goaties
Posts: 270
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:15 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by goaties » Fri Jun 22, 2018 12:43 pm

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:25 pm

Maybe Gorilla Glue will be my new Plan B, thank you! Re coating the underside - this is a front walk deck, and it's about 6 inches off the ground. Is there any need to stain the underside if it's not visible?
Well, the "stain" I used was actually stain plus sealer in one (Olympic Maximum). I like to seal all sides of the wood but perhaps it's not necessary or even preferable. After reading previous posts, I think perhaps coating the wood prior to drying is definitely my problem.

User avatar
dodecahedron
Posts: 3737
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:28 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by dodecahedron » Fri Jun 22, 2018 5:06 pm

mouses wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:38 pm
dodecahedron wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:47 pm
If you are going to live there long term, I would seriously consider replacing the whole deck with Trex composite decking.
Better not to use stuff that will still be filling up landfills (or the ocean, it's amazing how much non-biodegradable stuff winds up in the ocean) when the sun goes nova. Better to use natural materials.
My landscape architect (who is extremely environmentally conscious--that is one reason I selected her) encouraged the selective use of Trex for my wide steps and small deck. Trex is composed of 95% recycled materials (wood & plastic).

boglefannyc
Posts: 31
Joined: Fri May 06, 2016 2:10 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by boglefannyc » Fri Jun 22, 2018 5:23 pm

I've seen where Tom on PBS' TV show This old House used Bondo automotive dent filler for repairing rotted wood on windows. When I google Bondo, I see that 3M makes a Bondo brand wood filler as well for interior and exterior use.

FCM
Posts: 204
Joined: Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:28 pm

Re: Outdoor Wooden Steps Repair?

Post by FCM » Sat Jun 23, 2018 7:29 am

I've had the best success for filling gouges in pressure-treated wood by using epoxy glue thickened with sawdust, Mix it to a peanut butter consistency and then apply it into the gouge using a putty knife. However, the dried epoxy will not take a stain, but it will not flake off. I repaired some spots on my deck railings using this technique several years ago, and the thickened epoxy is still there.

Post Reply