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I'm updating my outdoor shower, and planning to reuse the existing (20 year old pressure treated) 4x4 posts. They're still solidly seated in the ground and surrounded by decking so I'd like to avoid replacing them.

In a couple of spots, the wood is broken or chipped out where an old hinge used to hang, or just from wear and tear. (Pictured below.) I'd like to repair it for cosmetic reasons before painting them and updating the rest of the shower.

What's the best way to make the repair? My instinct is to use my multi-tool to cut out the broken wood and then cut a new piece of wood and nail (and/or glue) it into the cutout. E.g. cut a 1"x1" section out of the broken corner and replace it with a solid piece of wood. Then saw/sand it flush. Is that a reasonable solution? Are there any more obvious / easier / better solutions? Thanks.

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Your intended repair method is called a "Dutchman". A This Old House article shows how to do it, but it's basically exactly what you said, so I won't bother to repeat the steps here.

It may look "repaired", but Dutchmen are used to repair knots and cracks in wood in fine furniture, so there's no reason you couldn't use one here, as well. They're often made of a contrasting color of wood to celebrate the repair and show off a bit, so there's no stigma of the repair being visible. Of course, if you're planning on painting the posts, then a well done Dutchman will be basically invisible when you're done anyway.

Since this is structural, you will want to be sure that you make good, tight fitting joints, and you'll want to be sure to make your Dutchmen out of PT lumber, and use a waterproof (not just water resistant) glue, to give it the best possible chance of lasting as long as the rest of the post.

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Any repair as you describe will look like a patch and will make the situation much more conspicuous than it is now. The only fix, aside from replacement, would be to wrap the posts with something new. You could box them with 1x6 ripped to 4-1/4", for example, but obviously that defeats the point of reuse.

I would probably add a few finish nails to secure the loose bit, then run a sander over it and call it a day.

UPDATE: I totally missed that you were painting. In that case, I'd probably run some screws into the loose area (or remove it), then skim with a good wood filler like Rock Hard Water Putty. Sand and prime, then paint. I would not install a filler block. That's a lot of putzy work for little gain.

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  • Totally agree on any repairs looking worse.
    – JACK
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 15:48
  • I was hoping that a tight fitting patch + some exterior grade wood filler + sanding + painting would make it pretty inconspicuous. Am I dreaming?
    – Aaron
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 15:58
  • Yep, wrap it. + Commented May 12, 2021 at 16:05
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    Update: I added a block this afternoon on the first post, and I'm afraid to say my craftsmanship was poor. I wasn't able to get the notch perfectly square, so it's gappy on the seams. But it's snug top-and-bottom which is what counts for stability, and I'll trim it flush and putty it once the glue is dry and add some screws for good measure. Was it a lot of putzy work for little gain? Yes. Should I have chosen a different method? Yes. But, a learning experience nonetheless :-)
    – Aaron
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 20:38
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The damage doesn't look too severe. You might be able to eliminate much of it by running a router along the edge with a 1/2" or 3/4" round-over bit. Nobody says the post has to retain its current 1/8" round-over, do they?

The part that remains might be improved by working in some epoxy mixed with sawdust and then clamping to hold the lifted pieces down. Wrap the clamp and other temporary fixturing in plastic packing tape -- epoxy won't stick to that.

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