A well-built deck should be a fun and enjoyable part of your home; a place to host family barbeques, curl up with a good book on a cool morning, or watch the sun set in the evening. Unfortunately, even though your deck feels sturdy under your feet, it may not be as safe as you think. Every year brings new stories of deck collapses, injuries, and sometimes even death!
May is deck safety month, and we’d like to take this opportunity to help you ensure that your deck is safe for use especially as we approach prime barbecue season! According to the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), “an estimated 40 million residential and 10 million commercial decks in the United States…are more than 20-30 years old.” Not only are older decks at far greater risk of collapse, but many of them were also built before deck building codes were put into place.
To support Deck Safety Month, NADRA put together a really great 7-point checklist that you can use to quickly and efficiently assess the state of your deck. You can review the full checklist HERE, but here’s a quick snapshot:
Test your stairs to make sure they support your weight without bending or swaying. Check that the handrails are tight and steady. Finally, remove any tripping hazards, like toys or decorations from the stairs. Are the bolts the hold the Handrails in place tight?
Are there any signs of the footing moving or leaning, is the concrete cracking? Does to post base bracket or bolts show sign of rust? Check the post and connectors to the beam. All these components carry the load of the deck and the people on top.
3) Beams and Joists
Beams are large pieces of wood or have multiple pieces been connected to make one big beam. When you have multiple pieces you have to look closely to see if there are signs of decay or dry root between them. Joist hangers is there signs of movement or rust? How are the joist connected to the ledger? Is there lateral load connectors?
When a deck is attached to a house you normally have a ledger. What is it attached to? Stucco, rim joist with flashing, how does the flashing look? Has the flashing been installed behind the exterior cladding, shingle style?
5) Deck Boards or the Deck Surface
This the area we see the most, we walk on it store BBQ, toy chests, Potted plants. Do the end of deck boards show signs of splitting, is there dry rot under the pots? Does the deck surface need a cleaning and resealing? Some decks have a water proof deck coating when was the last time it was inspected and resurfaced?
6) Handrail Assemblies and Guard
Guards are required when walking surface is more than 30” above grade. Most Guards in CA. should be 42” in height. Are Guard post properly blocked between joints and is the hardware showing signs of rust? Do the hand rail feel solid when you put wight on it?
Check the wood all around your deck, including the deck boards, railing, stairs, joists, support posts, and especially the ledger board (where the deck attaches to the house). Look for dry rot, termite damage, or wood that is simply worn out from age.
Flashing is what protects your deck from moisture and debris. Check to make sure your flashing is still functioning. If you notice that your flashing is loose or that it is not keeping out rain and moisture (which makes your deck vulnerable to dry rot), replace it.
Your deck is only as strong as the bolts and nails holding it together. Check all fasteners. Tighten loose fasteners and bang nails back into place that are coming out. If you notice broken or rusted fasteners, replace them.
Make sure your railings and bannisters are secure. Push gently on them. They shouldn’t move or sway.
Give your deck a good cleaning to remove any debris. If the wood looks bleached or seems to be absorbing water, it may be time to re-stain your wooden deck and to add a new waterproof coating.
Grills and fire pits
Anything that produces flames can be a hazard to your deck and family. Make sure you keep all flame-producing devices (like lighters, matches, and lighter fluid) out of the reach of children and away from flammable objects.
Make sure there is adequate lighting on your deck so that a person can easily move around the deck and climb up and down the stairs. Check to make sure all of your lights are working and that chords don’t create tripping hazards.
Test all of your outdoor furniture. Can your hammock hold your body weight? Are your deck chairs still sturdy?
It may not be your deck that is the danger, but rather the heavy branches swaying overhead. Make sure that no large branches overhang your deck. A bad storm or San Diego’s notorious El Nino winds could send a branch crashing through your deck.
This Seven-point check system shouldn’t take you long to get through, and then you can go back to enjoying your deck in peace! If you do notice any problems with your deck or don’t feel comfortable performing the check on your own, you can always call Best-Rate Repair. We are happy to send a deck expert out to your property to perform a safety check or to assess any damage that you notice.
If you have any concerns about your deck at all, it’s best to call an expert! You do not want to risk a deck collapse injuring you or anyone you love!