How To Patch Or Repair A Hole In Your Deck

Again? Already?!? If you had told me 10 months ago that I’d be doing deck construction again less than a year later, I would’ve punched you in the face.

Okay, not literally. I’m not the punching type. But I would’ve thrown you a look that said “I would be punching you in the face right now if I were the punching type.”

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the process of building a deck in the heat of summer… I just wasn’t really looking forward to doing it again so soon. But at least it wasn’t an entire deck this time. It was more of a patch job. Remember this puppy?

That’s the hole leftover from the big tree that we had to remove. The tree guys were nice enough to disassemble the bench that surrounded it (okay, technically they had to demolish it to remove the tree). Only downside is that it left us with this pretty pile of bench scrap.

A pretty pile that was also not very conducive to deck enjoyment. Tetanus, anyone?

Rather than rebuild the bench, we decided it would make the deck more functional to just cover the hole so we could place a table on a centered spot out there (if the hole stayed it would squish the outdoor dining area over in a not-as-centered-and-more-cramped way. My biggest worry was trying to find deck boards that were the same width as the existing who-knows-how-old decking. I even attempted to salvage some full boards from the scrap pile, but I came up three short.

So I headed off to Lowe’s to get my supplies and (with an old scrap piece of board in hand) quickly discovered they were a standard width that I could buy right off the shelf. Score! So into my car I packed:

  • Seven 8 foot long deck boards – $42
  • One 8 foot long 2 x 8″ board that was cut in half (those pieces would act as my joists) – $9
  • Four metal hangers to hold the joists in place – $4.50
  • TOTAL: $55.50

First up, I cut my 2 x 8s to the width of the hole and secured them with the hangers, using some decking nails that we had leftover from last summer.

I probably only needed to do one joist (the space was just a little over three feet wide) but the tree guys had cut the stump down at a weird angle so I couldn’t put a joist right across the middle – so this ended up being my weird spacing. As long as it keeps the deck boards from falling, it’s cool by me.

For stability and appearance reasons, I knew I wanted my new boards to extend beyond the hole. That way my patch-job would looked a smidge more natural and the new boards could rest on an existing joist at either end for even more stability. So that decision involved cutting back some of the other planks to lay in my fresh new boards and camouflage the hole.

To do this, I broke out my Dremel Sawmax and cut a deep slice. It wasn’t deep enough to go all the way through, but it was enough to make the board snap right where I wanted it (hence the slightly rough edge you see above).

This process saved me from having to pry up the entire length of each board. Instead, I just had to pry the sections that I wanted to remove.

When it came time to fit the new board, I just laid it across the space and marked it with a pen. No measuring tape needed.

Then using the stairs as a makeshift sawhorse, I cut each board down with my circular saw.

Then it was just a matter of putting my puzzle pieces together as I went.

Well, that and screwing them down. I was thankful that I had kept all of my leftover screws from last summer (maybe the universe knew I’d be doing deck-work sooner than I thought?). It saved me a few bucks and most of all it saved me from doing one of those annoying extra trips to the store because I forgot to grab something.

So here she be. Certainly not the prettiest home improvement “after” but the mismatched boards are at least an improvement over a gaping hole. Oh, and don’t mind that weird long board on the bottom left. One of the old boards cracked while I was prying it up so I had to patch a little more than originally planned.

We’re hoping that once the whole deck gets a good cleaning / stripping / restaining the new boards will blend right in with the old ones. Or maybe I should say that hopefully the old boards will look newer and they’ll all fit right in.

But for now, we’re just enjoying being able to have people over without worrying that someone’s about to fall through the deck. Check out Sherry’s chair bravely sitting right where the old hole used to be (she took this photo, which is why she’s missing).

So next on the deck to-do list is to give the whole thing a deep cleaning/stripping and then stain & seal it to hopefully bring back some like-new glory. And eventually we’d love to open up the back of the deck by adding extra wide stairs that lead down to the backyard. Sort of like this. Maybe from the thick post that’s in front of Sherry’s left elbow to the thick post that’s in front of the pot of herbs in the photo below? But that’ll probably be a “Phase Two” thing for us down the line.

Is anyone else tackling a project they didn’t foresee in their future? Something that was a pleasant (or maybe not so pleasant) surprise? As much as I didn’t enjoy having a deck to-do on my list again, I definitely appreciated the fact that this one only took me one afternoon to complete.


  1. says

    Fingers crossed a good powerwash will make it all match up. At least it was a patch job and not the whole deck, right? :)

    We had an unpleasant surprise Friday. The left track of our garage door decided it was done staying screwed into the ceiling so it fell out and the whole left side fell down. Yay. The Mr got the brace screwed into the ceiling into a stud but we knew not to mess with the spring. The guy came out yesterday and said that if you’re able to get the garage door open, just hook the spring on the hook since there’s no tension to worry about. It was a $55 lesson but I guess I’d rather have the knowledge and pray we never have to use it again.

  2. says

    Maybe a slap across the ear then?

    We are three years into our home and still deck-less. Thinking about this fall or next spring. I like what you did there. If it doesn’t ever blend well, you could always re-plank the whole deck. I’m sure after it’s cleaned up and stained it will be pretty close though.

  3. says

    Not the most fun project, but definitely better than a gaping hole! I keep seeing commercials for a Rustoleum product that’s supposed to be awesome for renewing your deck. I have no experience with it (we don’t have a deck) but thought I’d mention it, since it looks so easy to use.

    • says

      I hear that too! And Behr just came out with something too (supposedly it’s a little less gritty and easier to use) so we’re looking into those options! Will keep you guys posted!


  4. Lindsey says

    I love how every kid in the history of the world feels the need to wear the sand bucket on their head.

    Oh yeah, nice job on the deck! Haha.

    • says

      That seems to be my favorite method, just because putting the drill down and picking it back up feels less time efficient than placing them all and just keeping the drill in my hands and driving them all in at one time.


  5. Ashley says

    We just had a dumpster delivered this morning for our deck tear down! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Independence Day than some demolition! We’re putting in a fab tiered patio. Tetanus is already UTD!
    Your home is looking so much better already! Love following along!

  6. Annelies says

    Love the idea of adding wide steps. I already have that in my mind to for any future garden. You are so lucky to have such a beautiful large deck, and the view ! Good job John !

  7. says

    Rather than going to the trouble of stripping and restaining, have you considered using that new(ish) Rustoleum product that you just paint right over decks? It comes in lots of different colors, and I think they said it protects for up to 15 years. Ethan at One Project Closer used it recently on his deck, and the result is quite amazing:

    Just seems a heck of a lot easier than stripping and restaining. :)

    • says

      Oh yes, that looks awesome and we hear Behr has a similar product that just came out (we hear it’s a bit less gritty and easier to apply) so we’re definitely weighing those options!


    • Cathy says

      Kristi, I’ve actually recently used Rustoleum’s product you mention, called Restore and really liked it. You can actually have it mixed in any color you like and contrary to the many negative reviews I read, it’s not a big deal to apply. I almost did not use it because of the reviews, but it’s just like painting with peanut butter. No big deal. One big complaint I read over and over was that the coverage estimates were incorrect, but I used exactly what they estimated I would need. I used it on cracked, ugly, mismatched concrete and it improved the area enormously. As you mention, Sherry, it is gritty, and if you don’t want that under foot, the Behr would be better. It is pricier in my neck of the woods, however. My thought was that the texture of the Restore would help hide the imperfections and it did just that.

    • Carla says

      I think the look of Rustoleum is like that of paint (versus stain). At least that’s how it photographs? A friend of ours had his deck painted and hates it; when I went over to see it I had to agree with him. I had this weird feeling like I wanted to rip off the paint and let. the. wood. breathe! :) To me there is no substitute for beautiful stained decks. If I remember correctly you intentionally chose natural wood for your former deck?

    • says

      Rustoleum’s look is a lot like a textured paint but the Berh stuff is like a solid stain, so it has a lot more natural look to us (we have seen them both in person). We’ll definitely keep you posted on our decision – and all of the why-we-picked-that-one stuff – once we make a choice :)


    • says

      Thanks so much for sharing that link, Kristi! My deck is in bad shape again after staining it 2 summers ago. I am going to look into that product.

      Good luck with your deck project John and Sherry! Can’t wait to see which product you choose.

  8. Nicole says

    Loving the new house! It reminds me of our wooded neighborhood in Maryland. I have to ask, do you guys have those pesky daytime mosquitoes (Asian Tiger mosquitoes)? They can be brutal around the wooded areas. We have them and they drive us bananas!

  9. says

    This is going to sound lame, but snaps to you guys for being such hard workers! I know it’s your full-time job now and all, but I am always so impressed at how you guys always seem to be working so hard :)
    P.S. I FINALLY got your book a couple of weeks ago! My sister surprised me with it for an early birthday present. She knew I had been wanting it since it came out but couldn’t justify spending the money in my head (we’re trying to become debt-free) I was so excited and looked through the whole thing that night! Thanks for all the great ideas!

  10. Heather says

    Looks great! Newbie question here: When you were pulling up the older boards to use additional joists for support, how did you know how far apart the old joists were to begin with so that you knew where to cut your boards? Sorry if this is a totally obvious question!

    I’m moving into a (rent) house with a deck VERY similar in appearance and age so, I’m glad to hear that having an older deck doesn’t mean you absolutely have to tear down and start from scratch. Looking forward to your deck restoration post :)

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