Replacing an old deck with a new one can be a welcomed time of change. Even if you spent many great times on your old deck, there will likely come a time where the wood becomes warped and deteriorated and simply needs to be replaced.
The process of replacing your old deck is another process entirely but it is one that you can take on by yourself. But when your new deck is complete and looks great, you are left with one question: what do I do with the old boards from the previous deck?
Thankfully, there are uses for that old wood that you may not have realized were possible. You can recycle that old deck into a useful, beautiful piece with just a little bit of elbow grease and some creativity.
Understand the Types of Wood
One thing to keep in mind is that there are plenty of different materials that can be used for decking and that each type can have its own different purposes. So before you begin repurposing your old deck boards, know what they are made of.
Treated lumber is perhaps the most common type of material used for decking and it is the most common by a pretty huge margin. This is the type of decking wood that gets treated with chemicals in order to make it resistant to insect damage and rot from facing constant wear and tear from the sun and elements.
Redwood and cedar are also a quite popular option when it comes to deck materials. This is because both of these woods are naturally resistant to weather and insects.
Since there is no need for additional chemicals, that makes them also more expensive to get over something such as pressure-treated lumber.
For high-end decks, composite and PVC are popular decking options. Decking using PVC is made from what is known as a synthetic resin. This synthetic resin is known as polyvinyl chloride.
Composite decking, meanwhile, is made from wood fibers and recycled plastics. These are then fused together through the use of an adhesive.
Because of the different properties that each of these materials contain, there are different reuse and disposal options. Natural decking can be disposed of more easily since it doesn’t have dangerous chemicals that have been used to treat the wood.
Can You Recycle Pressure-Treated Wood?
In short, no, you can’t. This is because there are harmful chemicals that are present in the wood that are meant to stand up against insect and weather harm. Because of these chemicals, pressure-treated wood can’t be reclaimed for use.
Depending on how old your deck is, it could have been treated with chromate copper arsenate. This is what provides weather-resistant qualities to the deck.
This was discontinued back in 2004 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It was forbidden because it contains copper, chromium, and arsenic. Those three present substantial health hazards and arsenic is actually a poison.
So, if your deck was built prior to 2004, reusing the lumber from that deck is likely a near impossibility. Reclaiming that old lumber could result in the release of those harmful chemicals and chipping or pulverizing those old deck boards would do the same thing.
The only option for pressure-treated wood from 2004 or prior is to take it to a local landfill. Even then, many municipalities require that you take those materials to a hazardous materials section of your local landfill so that the lumber can be disposed of in a landfill that is lined.
The lining is what prevents the chemicals from leaching into the groundwater and soil, becoming a danger to many in the area.
Disposing of Old Deck Wood
Even if the decking wood used to construct your deck didn’t contain any of those hazardous materials, there are still inherent hazards with disposing of any kind of old wood. This means nails, screws, splintered wood, and other sharp materials that can cut, gouge, or stab you.
When taking apart your old deck to ready it for disposal, make sure that you are wearing the proper protective equipment. The last thing that you want to do is get a tetanus shot because a rusty nail stabbed you.
Keep the safety of others in mind too. Sure, you might not have to deal with those old boards again but if there are nails that are jutting out of them, you could leave someone that handles them unwittingly getting an unpleasant surprise.
Each municipality has its own guidelines for disposing of materials such as old wood so be sure to check out your local guidelines before doing anything. You don’t want to have to re-dispose of those boards when you’ve already done it once.
Still, there are plenty of things that you can do with that old wood after you have taken apart your old deck.
What to Do with Old Deck Boards
1 – Give it Away
Sure, you put a whole lot of money into that old deck and getting something out of it would be ideal. But there comes a time when getting rid of old furniture or, in this case, decking where you have to weigh the difficulty of getting rid of those old materials.
There is a saying too: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Now more than ever, thanks to Facebook communities, people are selling those things around their homes that they no longer find use for or donating it to a better cause.
If you really don’t want to go through the effort of getting rid of all that old deck wood from your previous deck, there is a simpler solution.
Depending on the condition of the wood that you want to get rid of, you could try stacking the boards on the curb with a sign saying “free wood.” You would be surprised at how quickly something such as that could be picked up by a passerby.
Even if you don’t live in an area with a lot of traffic, you can use the power of the Internet to create an ad. Post it on your local Facebook Marketplace and you will probably get an interested party within a few days at worst. That solves the problem of the unwanted decking boards.
2 – Sell It
Of course, if you feel as though you have too much money invested into your old deck to just give it away, you could try to sell that unwanted wood. And since deck materials were designed to last for a very long time — upwards of 40 years or so — you could comfortably sell those materials to someone else.
Since decking material can also be quite expensive, there is no doubt another party out there that would love to get the materials at a fraction of the cost. Both seller and buyer can benefit in a situation such as this provided that the pricing is realistic.
Keep in mind that these are used materials, not the expensive brand-new materials that you would get from a local supplier.
Getting money out of your old boards can help to offset some of the costs of your new deck or can be put into another fund in your life. Either way, it can make moving on from your old deck a little less painful when you are able to recoup some of the costs.
3 – Local Trash Pickup
Depending on where you live, there are designated times where picking up bulky items or construction materials is allowed either for free or for a specified fee.
Either way, contact the waste management service in your area or visit their website in order to find out if they will take the old wood that you are looking to get rid of.
If this is the case, all you have to do is ensure that it is free of nails and other hazardous materials and simply stack it on the curb. Provided that it falls within the guidelines of your municipality, they will take it away for you and get it out of your hair once and for all.
4 – Find a Way to Reuse it
Again, it is important to know whether or not the old decking materials that you used have been treated with hazardous chemicals. If they have been, it is imperative that you do not use the old materials as they can be quite hazardous for your health.
But if they have not been treated with those dangerous chemicals mentioned earlier, you should consider reusing that wood if you are a handyman. There are plenty of options if the wood is still in good enough condition that it can be reused.
After all, treated wood is certainly not cheap. And if your deck was made of redwood, cedar, composite, or PVC, you paid for some of the most expensive materials that you can get and likely want to get greater use out of them to justify the overall costs.
Those materials are rated to last nearly half a century so there is a good chance that they will have life left in them after you tear down the old deck. You can use them for a variety of DIY projects around your home.
The repurposed wood can be used to create a workbench, flower boxes (if you are using treated wood, the plants can’t be edible in nature), picture frames, benches, chairs, tables, or anything else that you can think of when it comes to repurposing.
If you have the time and the patience, you can even reuse that old wood to create crafts or items that you can sell. That is another way to recoup some of the money lost from your initial material investment, should that be something that you desire.
There are also ways in which you should definitely not dispose of your old decking boards. Here are just a few of those ways.
What NOT to Do with Old Deck Boards
DON’T Burn it
For some of us, burning unwanted items becomes a quick and easy way to dispose of the things that we don’t want and it would only make sense that wood falls into that category. And while that’s an option for some yard waste or scrap lumber, do not ever burn treated lumber.
Again, that treated lumber is infused with chemicals that are dangerous to ingest and burning those pieces of treated lumber sends those dangerous chemicals into the air. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the leftover ashes can also contain high levels of the poison arsenic.
There’s a reason why burning treated lumber is banned in every state. Getting rid of that unwanted lumber is reasonable but burning it is against the law.
DON’T Cut up Treated Wood
If the theme isn’t clear by now, it should be. Treated wood contains those harmful chemicals and makes it dangerous to dispose of without a proper disposal facility. It might seem as if cutting up those pieces to make them easier to dispose of is a good idea but it isn’t.
Anything that you do to the wood creates an opportunity for unwanted chemicals to be released out into the environment, creating hazards for you and those around you.
DON’T Compost It
Above all else, do not compost your treated wood. It is normally a good idea to compost unwanted scrap wood, but we come back around to those harmful chemicals. Those chemicals from the treated wood will saturate the compost and you’ll wind up dumping harmful chemicals into your garden.
When that happens, those toxic chemicals can and will end up in your plants and, eventually, right on your dining room table. Even if you plan to use this compost on decorative plants, the chemicals can leach into the soil and then into the groundwater, making anything planted or the groundwater used essentially poison.
There are many things that can be done with the old wood of your previous deck provided that it was not pressure-treated wood. Even then, you can safely dispose of that hazardous material in a way that is responsible and environmentally safe to do so.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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