To follow up my previous article, we will continue to discuss deck face screwing and plugging methods. Again, I’m a huge fan of face screwing/plugging, not only for the aesthetics, but also structurally ( it’s easier to replace a failed board. All you have to do is drill out the plug and unscrew the board. If you use a hidden fastener system, you have to take out all the boards up to the one you need to replace, think of the labor cost! Well placed face screws I believe give the board more stability and strength to withstand severe summer heat and winter elements that will stress the wood. That said, I’m no deck building expert, but I do have personal experience in designing and installing exotic decks so this comes from my experience.
I’ve had several conversations with deck builders over the past few weeks and we discussed the numerous ways that they try to speed up the plugging process to contain labor costs. In my previous article, I discussed how to get a nice, smooth plug finish by planing off the top and going back with a sander to finish. Yes, this is painstakingly slow, and if you have a big deck, a very daunting task.
So here’s what some of the pros do ( they use a sharp chisel and masonry hammer. Lay the bevel side of the chisel against the edge of the plug, going with the grain, and pop! The plug is shaved. Now, this is the easy way, but it’s not the pretty way. The positives are that your labor cost is lower due to time saved. You don’t need any special or expensive planers or sanders. The negative, and this is why I don’t like this way just for the sake of appearance, is that you get a very unclean plug that will either be rising above the deck or, in some cases, break off below the deck surface and leaving an indentation. See the following photos that I took from a finished project and see if you can notice the rough finish of the plugs:
Some of you can live with this, but some of you cannot!
Now, a compromise ( try using the chisel method for speed, and then go back with a sander and smooth out those bumps. There is still nothing you can do about those plugs that break off below the deck surface, however you won’t have that bumpy feeling as you walk on your deck if you take the time to go back over it with some spot sanding.
Enjoy your new deck, and please comment if you have any other methods or ideas!