Robert Lamoureux: TREX trouble on the patio

Robert Lamoureux has more than 40 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected]
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Question No. 1 

Robert,

I live in Canyon Country, and about five to six years ago, we had a contractor come out to replace all of the planks that go across our elevated patio in our rear yard.

We opted to have the TREX planks installed and now, after this time, we’ve noticed that the planks are loose. The screws used for install are unusual to me — I had to purchase a special tool to use for securing them back down.

I did lift one and discovered that the wood below is rotted. My question to you is, why is this happening and why didn’t the contractor let me know it could happen?

Now that I’ve discovered the one area, I did lift all and the entire area below the planks is rotting and in need of replacing for safety. 

Oscar W.

Answer No. 1 

Oscar,

I’ve come across this very situation many times now, since TREX has been used.

Many of the installers are not forthcoming about the probability that the joists will have moisture trapped between the TREX and the joists, which is a perfect storm for wood rot to occur.

The proper thing to do is of course, to start with good joists and apply prime and paint to them prior to installing the TREX boards atop them. Unfortunately, at this point in time if the joists are as rotted as you’re describing, the only option is to replace them after removing the entire area of TREX.

You can replace the joists with TREX joists or use pressure-treated wood, which is more forgiving than standard. If you choose the pressure-treated, first prime and paint for the beginning layer of protection. You may want to also consider putting a flashing detail down on top of the wood prior to reinstalling the TREX boards. This will be one more barrier against moisture and will buy you more time before there is any rot below the TREX.

I can’t explain why a contractor wouldn’t share all of this with you. After all, it is a bigger “money-maker” for the contractor if the homeowner authorizes this recommendation. It boggles my mind how some take the shortcuts like this, but in the end, will you call this guy back?

Guessing he’ll not be getting any more of your money, and you now have to spend unplanned. Good luck getting this back to good condition, just know that it will be in great shape for a long time, if you make those changes. 

Sincerely,

Robert

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