Lattice, the criss-cross patterned panels located beneath the lower edges of decks, serves a decorative purpose but also protects the under-deck from pests and debris build-up. Lattice work protects a deck's integrity by allowing air to circulate beneath the deck where it prevents moisture build-up and subsequent rotting and mildew. Unfortunately, pests and other animals can damage lattice. Snow, rain and wind can also degrade and warp lattice-work.
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Materials and Design
Lattice materials include wood, plastic and metal. Mortar and bricks are used less often. Depending upon the deck's style and age, the material used can be untreated pine or fir, pretreated lumber, non-corrosive chain link or outdoor quality plastic. Wood, plastic or metal lattice work is placed within a frame that is then affixed to the bottom edge of a deck. Other decks do not require a frame, instead the lattice is nailed directly along the bottom lip of the deck. Lattice repair requires the purchase of lattice material similar to the type that is already in place. Extremely damaged lattice can be completely replaced with a different and more durable material. Lattice is purchased from home improvement stores.
Damage and Repair
Heavy snow can drift and press against lattice under-decking. The snow not only warps the lattice structure but also introduces moisture. Moisture, through snow, rain or ground moisture, easily damages wood lattice. Replace this lattice by removing it from the lattice frame with a pry bar. Nail replacement lattice into the empty frame. For decks without frames, remove the damaged lattice with a hammer or pry bar and nail the new lattice into place. Non-corrosive chain link or heavy-duty plastic will not exhibit the rapid, moisture-caused degradation responsible for wood lattice damage but, these rot-resistant materials are still susceptible to warping and animal damage. Animals, like raccoons, squirrels and pets, can gnaw through non-organic lattice or dig underneath the lattice barrier. In these situations underground barriers of metal or plastic help protect lattice work and under-deck areas.
Other Designs and Materials
Cement pavers or brick provide a more permanent alternative to wood, metal and plastic lattice. Cement pavers and brick lattice are more time-consuming and require a greater installation expense but they are long-lasting and able to withstand snow drifts and high winds. They are also beneficial in areas prone to drought and wildfire. Wooden decks and lattice can provide fodder to wildfires but cement pavers and brick will not burn and can even provide a small firebreak. One drawback to these permanent lattices is the inability to move them. Some homeowners use their below-deck area for storage. Lattice frames for wood, metal and plastic lattice can be fitted with hinges. When the panels and frames are attached to the under-deck they can be swung open along the hinge, allowing for easy access to storage areas below the deck. Cement pavers and brick lattice work do not allow for this easy access.
Warping and damage to lattice can be an indication of other structural problems. Check deck railings, joints and foundation posts for moisture build-up and damage from insects, rot and mildew. After replacing lattice work you may wish to seal the entire deck, lattice included, with a water-repellent stain or coating.