May is Deck Safety Month and serves as a good reminder for all homeowners to take a little time this coming weekend to check and make sure their deck is structurally sound. Over many years, a deck’s support can weaken, increasing the chances of a dangerous collapse. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, (InterNACHI) of the 45 million decks in the United States, only 40% are completely safe.
The risks of a deck collapse are all too real, especially when a deck is under a large load. This is exactly what happened in December of 2013 when a family’s Christmas party turned into a nightmare. The family stood outside on a deck in Southern Indiana to take pictures. Just as the family gathered together, the deck collapsed one story onto the concrete below. Thankfully no one died, but many of the family members were injured and required hospitalization as a result of hitting the concrete and slamming into the railing of the deck. This entire shocking scene was caught on security footage and showcased in the news story below:
How to Inspect Your Deck
Oftentimes, you can spot safety problems with a deck long before a collapse occurs if you know what to look for:
- Ledger Board: According to InterNACHI, 90% of deck collapses occur because the deck separates from the house. This is a ledger board issue. The first thing you should always check is the ledger board. Make sure that the lag screws are securely in place in the ledger board.
- Rail Posts: Most deck injuries result from rail failures, so make sure the rails are sturdy and firmly attached to the deck. They should not be wobbly or loose. If you notice any termite damage or wood rot, replace the rails immediately.
- Joist Hangers: Check joist hangers and ensure that the joist hanger nails are firmly in place. If there are any nails other than joist hanger nails in the joist hangers, replace them immediately with joist hanger nails.
- Posts: Check the deck posts for wood rot, termite damage and overall stability. Make sure they are still firmly planted in the ground.
- Post Connections: Ensure that the deck posts are secured to the deck and that the carriage bolts are not loose or rusted.
- Deck Braces: Walk back and forth on your deck and give it a firm push on all sides if you can reach it. If the deck wobbles or sways, check the deck braces beneath the deck. If they look damaged or worn out, it may be time for a replacement.
- Grip: Make sure the railings are easy to grip to prevent falls, especially along the stairway.
- Lighting: Check that your deck lights work. Consider adding ambient light to your deck to increase visibility and lower the risk of falls at night.
- Gaps: Measure the gaps between deck boards and between railings. You want to ensure that the heel of someone’s shoe won’t get stuck between the boards and that small children won’t be able to squeeze through the railings.
This article from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors provides a much more detailed look at giving your deck a thorough safety inspection.
If you don’t feel confident about performing a deck safety inspection on your deck in San Diego, or if you notice problems with your deck, please contact Best Rate Repair. Our experienced wood repair experts can perform the safety inspection for you and give you a clear price quote for any recommended repairs. Our job is to help keep your deck strong and sturdy so you and your family can enjoy it safely.