Placing new composite decking boards can be expensive and time-consuming. But replacing damaged and rotting joists is much more troublesome. In many cases, you will need to build an entirely new frame. For this reason, it’s crucial to protect not only your floorboards but your substructure as well, including the joists. For wood and other similar materials, water damage is one of the biggest problems. It can cause rotting, warping, and mould growth on most decks. The question is, how can you protect your joists from moisture? Here are some helpful tips you can try. 

  1. Maintain Your Deck – If you want to protect your subframe, especially your deck joists, from moisture, you will want to keep your deck dry at all times, even if you have a water-resistant deck, such as composite decking. If you split any liquid, it’s best to wipe them dry as soon as possible. Not only does it protect your floorboards from stains and moisture damage, but your joists as well. You will also want to keep out for fallen leaves, plants, 
  2. Inspect Your Deck – There will be times that moisture problems will not be as apparent as you would expect. You’ll be surprised one day after seeing the irreversible damage it had done to your deck. For this reason, you will want to schedule regular inspections, not only on the decking floor but also on what’s beneath it. Signs of joist rotting, such as sagging and uneven floorboards, are clear indications of moisture damage. While you may not easily see mould growth under your deck, a musty smell coming below your deck is often a sign of it. If you see any sign of damage, it’s best to replace them as soon as possible. Rotting, mould growth and other similar problems can spread throughout the subframe. It’s best to fix them before you get to the point where you have to replace your entire deck frame. 
  3. Redirect Drainage – Water drainage, especially from the roof, can cause water damage to your deck. Check for any drainage problems and fix them as soon as possible. If possible, redirect all drainage systems as far away as from the decking. You can also build a drainage system underneath your deck. For places with frequent rains, a roof over your deck can also help. Temporary covers like tarps and canopies also reduce water pooling problems, especially during rainy seasons. 
  4. Allow Proper Ventilation – Ventilation is crucial when designing and building a deck. Wood, which is the most commonly used material for joists, absorbs water and expels moisture. But without sufficient ventilation, it won’t be able to release its water content. If that happens, it will cause the wood to develop many problems. Some of the issues you will encounter are rotting, warping, insect damage, and fungi growth. For better ventilation on your deck, you will need to observe proper spacing between decking boards. Joists spacing and span measurements are also crucial. You will want to check with your local codes or manufacturer manuals regarding these matters. Alternatively, you could consult a professional for insight and advice. 
  5. Use Water-resistant Materials – Picking the right materials for your joists is crucial. Check your local building codes to know what materials you can use. In most cases, you will want to use at least pressure-treated wood for your subframe. You can also use non-wood alternatives such as PVC and composites. As much as possible, avoid using untreated wood unless they are naturally resistant like Cedar and Redwood. 
  6. Flash Your Joists – – When building a new deck or replacing old subframes, you will want to flash or waterproof your joists. The most common way to do this is by using flashing tapes. Flashing tapes are water-resistant adhesives or membranes laid on top of the joists. It minimizes water absorption while allowing the wood to release moisture on the uncovered sides. Alternatively, you can also use aluminium coil and tar paper as substitutes. You can find a variety of these on your decking supply store. 
  7. Use Sealants – Another easy way to protect your deck joists from moisture is by using wood sealants. Applying them is similar to what you do for floorboards. Applying water-resistant sealants will provide full coverage for your joists, instead of only the top side when using flashing tapes. However, it’s best to apply to the subframe before installing the deck. Re-applying them can also be a little trickier. But as long as you can reach the underside of your deck, using sealants can be an excellent way to protect the deck joists from moisture.
Decking joists

Whether you have an existing deck or planning to add a new one, protecting your deck joists from moisture goes a long way in ensuring your deck’s lifespan. It will also ensure structural integrity and safety. Remember to inspect and maintain your joists and redirect any down spouts and drainage. When building a new deck, use water-resistant materials, flash your joists, and allow proper ventilation and sufficient spacing.