A shepherd’s hook ruined my deck!


With many sunny days in the forecast for this week, I’ve been tackling refinishing our deck. Our deck is almost 11 years old, and it’s made of pressure-treated pine. As anyone who has a wood deck knows, they are unfortunately not maintenance-free. This will be the fourth time I’ve refinished this deck.


My day was filled with swapping sander belts, slapping sunscreen and sipping Cokes in the sunshine! Despite its age, the wood was sanding down nicely in prep for staining.


One corner of our deck has a shepherd’s hook clamped on the rail. I’ve had this hook in the same place since the deck was built, and it’s only been removed during deck refinishings. It usually has a hanging basket planter on it brightening up our deck space with flowers.

Honestly, I’ve never given much thought to this hook until today. As I was sanding the deck rail, I got closer to the corner where the hook was clamped. I unscrewed the clamp, moved the hook, and continued sanding. Then I noticed that the wood under the hook was soft.

That’s not good, I thought. 

I grabbed a screwdriver and pressed it into the wood, and it easily sunk about half an inch.

That’s really not good.

deck hole

I started chipping the rotted wood away, and I found that I’d excavated a hole about the size of a fifty-cent piece in our deck rail.

I pondered whether or not it was worth attempting to dry out the wood, then fill this hole with an epoxy product — or just rip the board off and replace it. I stuck the screwdriver into the hole again and found that I was able to slide almost the entire length of it sideways into the hole.

How bad is this?

I continued “excavating.” A piece of wood popped out of the top of the deck rail a few inches from the hole where the shepherd’s hook had previously been clamped. I stuck the screwdriver in that spot and began removing more rotten wood from the rail.

When I could scrape no more rotten wood out of the deck rail, I was left with this: 

deck rail rot

Oh my. Isn’t it incredible what water and time can do? I never once considered that the shepherd’s hook could do so much damage to our deck simply by being clamped to the rail.  Years of water being trapped under the clamp caused the wood to rot not only under the clamp itself, but all the way down the rail from that point.  This is the only piece of wood with rot on the entire deck.

Tomorrow, I’m buying a new deck rail… and I won’t be re-hanging our shepherd’s hook.



  1. Theresa says

    yep that maintenance free is every three years on the deck or it looks awful, doesn’t seem to matter what product since our winters do not help Amazing how much rot was in your railing. Happy refinishing and glad the weather is good.

    • says

      Thank you. The weather’s been good this week (hence, my absence from the blog during the day!) I just did this in 2013, and nearly all of the stain on the railings and deck floor has peeled away completely. I put a lot of research into what I’m staining with this time — hopefully it lasts longer than the previous product I used (which was Thompsons Deck & House Oil Stain Semi-Transparent) did.

      I will probably blog about it again when I finish the deck. The Thompson’s was under $20 a gallon. This time around, I’m using Bond’s One Time, and it was $89/gallon! Perhaps you do get what you pay for — it’s a completely different kind of stain (penetrating, vs. the Thompsons that made a sad “skin” on top of the wood, then peeled like mad after the first winter.) I’m about half done with our deck, and the Bond’s already looks and feels like a higher-quality product. We shall see…

  2. ivywhite says

    Shepherd’s hooks are wonderful and I put many coats of sealant on the deck rail for about 6″ in each direction and sprayed the clam with sealer as well. This woks just fine and then, of course, were you to hand the plants on the outside of the rail….

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