Cottage Q&A: 4 fixes for a gappy floor

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I have a screen room built on an old deck. The boards are spaced about one inch apart. We eat and live in this room. Our cutlery and the grandkids’ iPads have fallen through the spaces. The room is 10 feet off the ground. How do l repair the flooring situation without replacing the deck boards?—Gord Latimer, via email

Happily, you have several options, and none of them involve replacing (or moving) the deck boards. But the right option probably depends on the size of the deck and how much time you’re willing to spend on this project.

You could cut one-inch strips of board to block the gaps, says Mike Tilley, the owner of Tilley’s Applewood Home Renovations in Guelph, Ont. You could also block them with pieces of foam caulking. “You could jam almost anything in there,” he says. “But that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.” It also probably wouldn’t look very good.

But maybe you don’t care what the floor looks like. In that case, simplest and fastest would be to put down some outdoor carpeting. That would cover those one-inch gaps. But eventually, the carpet would likely start to sag through them. 

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More pleasing to the eye, and what Tilley would do: lay down building-grade plywood and stain it. This, of course, would raise the floor at least a little, and that might interfere with the porch door (most likely, the door from the porch to the outdoors, assuming you have one). So, you may need to shave down the bottom of the door, or modify the doorway, by, say, putting in a new sill (or do both). But that would still be less work than dismantling the deck and moving all the boards, he says.

If you don’t want to do anything to the top of the porch floor, you might be tempted to screen the underside of the deck. That would prevent items from falling 10 feet down to the ground (plus, potentially keep the bugs out). But it could make your situation worse. Because of the deck joists underneath, “you’d get a collection of stuff caught between the floor and the screen,” says Tilley. And you might not be able to retrieve them easily.

You probably don’t care if a butter knife gets trapped in under-porch purgatory for all of eternity, but can the grandkids go without their iPads?

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This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of Cottage Life.

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