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4,276,800 Screws and You Thought Your Deck was Hard to Maintain?

The front porch has given way to the deck ... and Americans love their decks.

More than 25 percent of all homes in the U.S. have them, fueling a $10 billion industry that consumes 5.5 billion board feet in new lumber every year. These "outdoor living rooms" yield more than just good times -- they cost an average of about $8,000 and yield a 55 percent return on the investment, which is always good news for homeowners.

While entertaining family and friends at summer BBQs is great, decks also are a chore and the late summer and the early fall ritual of cleaning, sealing, inspecting and replacing boards must be done if they are going to last.

Who better to take maintenance advice from than Don Guardian, Executive Director of the Atlantic City Special Improvement District (SID)?

Guardian and his team care for the country's "largest deck" and only official wooden avenue: The Boardwalk in Atlantic City. The Boardwalk is nearly four miles long, 24 feet wide and 10 feet high. It's tread on by millions; it's rolled on by bikers, baby strollers, roller- bladers, and of course, the world-famous rolling chairs.

Just about every vehicle has made its way down the wooden stretch including the Budweiser Clydesdale horses and an errant 18-wheeler that got lost and made it several blocks before crashing through to the beach.

Originally built by a rather vexed train conductor to keep the sand out of his Camden and Atlantic Railroad passenger cars, today the 135 year-old wooden deck and roadway is an American icon.

With four boards per foot, nine screws per board (that's 4,276,800 screws) there's much to be maintained.

So what are Atlantic City's recommendations for good deck maintenance?

  • Daily inspection
  • Replace any worn or rotting wood immediately
  • Watch for nail or screw pops and reaffix
  • Watch for any irregularities in the surface -- a sure sign of trouble
  • Remove moisture and mildew damage
  • Use a good wood sealer every year

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