Every year dozens of decks collapse across the United States causing minor and serious injuries. In almost all cases of deck collapse, overload is a factor. A well-made deck is built to hold a significant amount of weight, but every structure has its limits. It’s important for you as a homeowner to realize that your deck is simply a freestanding structure that is attached to the side of your home by a ledgerboard. If that ledgerboard becomes highly stressed with too much weight on the deck, it can loosen over time and eventually give way.
How Much Weight Is Too Much Weight?
How do you know how much weight your deck can safely handle? That is hard to estimate, because that number will depend on the size of your deck, the materials used to construct it, and how it was built. A deck built by an unlicensed and inexperienced builder could be far weaker than a deck built by a professional who knows how to install a ledger board and a deck frame correctly, uses high quality materials, and makes sure everything is proportioned correctly for maximum stability.
You should have no problem hosting your family or a small party on your deck. As long as everyone has ample space to sit and walk around the deck, the combined stress on the deck shouldn’t be too much.
However, your deck was not designed to pack people on like sardines. If you’ve got so many people on your deck that they can’t sit and walk comfortably, that is far too many bodies, and the combined weight may be enough to collapse the deck.
It’s Not So Much Weight As Distribution
If you have a lot of people on your deck, but they are distributed evenly around the deck, you should still be relatively safe. What is much more dangerous is if you have a large group of people all crowded in one spot. If your deck has a weak railing or post, it could buckle under the concentrated weight. Also, remember that your deck is attached to your home by the ledgerboard. If everyone on the deck leans against the railing, they are basically using their combined weight to pull the deck away from the ledgerboard. What happens if 1,000 people on a small cruise ship all run to one side of the boat? The boat tips over.
This same thing can happen with your deck if you have too many people on one side. In one case of deck collapse, a family got together for a holiday family reunion. They stepped out on the deck of a clubhouse and all huddled together against the rails to have their picture taken. With 30 or 40 people all gathered at one part of the deck, the whole structure collapsed and several family members were hospitalized. (See my previous blog post on this incident).
Don’t Live With Worry
I don’t mean to alarm you with this blog post. If your deck was well built by professional contractors and you don’t invite 500 of your closest friends to see if they can all fit on your deck at the same time, overweighting probably won’t be a safety concern. If, however, your deck is poorly built or has an underlying problem (like a weak ledgerboard, termite damage, or wood rot), then overweighting could cause a deck collapse. Don’t live with this worry. Call a professional to inspect your deck for safety concerns. At Best-Rate Repair, we would be glad to send a respectful and responsive professional to your home to inspect your deck.