Learning to perform a basic deck inspection will help you understand the need for building codes and the why proper materials and fasteners will save you money in the long run and help ensure the safety of your family and friends for years to come.

When inspecting a deck, make sure to review each of the following components:

1. Flashing material.

Properly installed flashing protects the ledger from water damage. If water penetrates the space between the deck and the ledger, the ledger will begin to rot and decay. This is a problem regardless of the material being used. Water rot on the ledger is a leading indicator of an impending collapse. It’s not a matter of if, but when!

2. Ledger

Check to see how you or the builder fastened the ledger to the rim joist. If it was fastened with nails, then you need to upgrade. Using nails to fasten the deck to the house is a recipe for disaster. Eventually those nails will succumb to the weight of the deck and collapse. You should replace the nails, one by one, with ½” diameter hot-dipped galvanized lag screws and be sure to use washers for a secure fit. These screw types are coated with as much zinc as possible, making them highly resistant to corrosion. Galvanized lag screws are expensive but, again, they ensure a safely constructed deck.

3. Joists hangers and fasteners

Regular fasteners, such as common nails and screws, are designed for interior applications, not to build a deck. A professional and reputable deck builder will always use galvanized joist hangers and hot-dipped joist fasteners.

If you are building a new deck, use materials that are specifically made for decking. Don’t skimp here; saving a little money will compromise the integrity of the deck. If your deck was fastened with common nails, you will want to upgrade to proper hangers and fasteners.

Note: newer pressure treated wood will corrode uncoated joist hangers.

4. Stairway and handrail system

Wobbling posts and handrails need to be rebuilt or reinstalled soon. It doesn’t require much force for someone to lean against a weak railing and fall. Like other features of the decking system, common nails are insufficient for deck stairs. Instead, upgrade to stringer-to-deck joist hangers with galvanized screws and bolts.

These features may cost more money, but they will ultimately extend the life of your deck and ensure the safety of others. If you visually see defects in the stairway or handrail system, keep your family and friends off of the deck until it has been properly repaired

With this information in mind, you should be able to perform a basic review of your deck to make sure it is safe for your family and your friends to use. If you do notice an area of concern, play it safe and give us a call for a more thorough inspection done by a wood repair specialist. (619) 229-0116.

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