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Fungus and bugs on deck's joists and uprights; that's rotten luck

August 05, 2007|Kathy Price-Robinson | Special to The Times

Question: My house was built 20 years ago with a second-story redwood deck that is about 250 square feet. The deck has been stained, power-washed and decently maintained. But some of the deck joists and all four uprights have been diagnosed with dry rot/fungus and dry-wood termites. Should I replace the damaged joists and uprights or rip the thing down and start over? The deck faces south and west with views and is in full sun most of the day. I do not want to spend a lot of money if I can avoid it as I am semi-retired. The home is valued at about $1 million.

Expert's answer: Joe Wood of WoodsShop in San Diego ( offers this advice:

With an aged deck, you can sometimes retain the existing structure if it is sound, and it certainly makes sense to do so considering the higher cost of rebuilding. New decks can cost $50 to $75 per square foot or more.

If the rotted areas are only on the tops of the joists (the horizontal beams onto which the deck's boards are fastened) and aren't too bad, the damaged areas can be sealed with Termin-8 (a copper-based preservative) and then covered with joist flashing to prevent more water infiltration. One such product is Grace Vycor Deck Protector.

While you're under the deck, you should also check the condition of any fittings and fasteners for corrosion.

When you replace the posts, use pressure-treated stock, and make sure you install them with an uncut, factory-sealed end down into the ground; don't use a freshly cut end.

However, with all four posts and some of the joists showing signs of decay, there's a very good chance the remainder of the joists will soon follow. Maybe it's time to replace the deck with another that's safe.


Playroom or laundry room?

Question: We bought a beautiful two-story, five-bedroom home in an excellent area of Newbury Park. The only problems are that there is very little storage in the house and the laundry room is so small that it feels more like a long closet. I read that laundry rooms are the hot new area for renovation. We have a playroom off the kitchen that's next to the laundry room, with a tall, arched opening without a door. It also has a desk in an alcove. Others in the neighborhood have turned this into a guest room. For resale, is it better to keep this room as a playroom that is basically used for storing extra computers and books? Or should we make it into a larger laundry room with lots of storage?

Expert's answer: From David Kean (, a Prudential California agent based in Hancock Park:

The addition of a laundry room to your home sounds like a good idea given its design. Since you already have five bedrooms, it's unlikely that you or future buyers will want a guest room.

As long as you are renovating the room, why not make it a multipurpose room? A laundry room in and of itself doesn't add much value to a home. Yet a well-designed home office/laundry/storage and crafts room will appeal to a wide variety of buyers.

To facilitate these functions, add lower cabinets with counters that match the design and d├ęcor of the kitchen. The counters can be used for various activities. I would suggest a Corian-type material for durability. Adding shelves or wall cabinets above the counters will help solve the storage problem.

The room should have the basic look of a butler's pantry, with the washer and dryer concealed behind cabinet doors or installed under the counter top. Adding a utility sink may not be very expensive because plumbing should be nearby. The sink will enhance the multifunctionality of the room and make it seem like a well-planned extension of the kitchen and family room.

You may be able to incorporate the existing desk alcove into the new room. This will help the room function as an office or homework area and provide ample storage for books.

You can leave the archway open if you keep the style of the room in line with the kitchen. The openness will allow the two areas to flow together. Buyers often prefer that these areas be open to each other.

As for the former laundry closet, consider converting it into a pantry. Adding floor-to-ceiling shelving will give you lots of storage for paper goods and such. If you entertain, this would be a smart place to add party-ware storage. You may even want to add a section of drawers for rarely used items. Remember to add good lighting so you can easily see what's in the room.

Though extra storage may not add to the value of a home, inadequate storage turns off buyers. Rather than exclusively creating a laundry area that may not meet another homeowner's needs, you'll be better off if the room has many purposes.


Contact Kathy Price-Robinson at her blog:

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