As the summer weather starts to shine, homeowners start planning their summer barbecues. Before you start inviting friends over to hang out on your deck, let’s go over the different areas of a deck and their purpose to help you understand the areas to inspect to make sure your deck can handle all the fun!
Here in San Diego our wooden decks can take a beating. We not only have the hot sunny weather, but we also have the moisture in the air from our salty beaches. The combination of these two things create a perfect environment for, wet rot, dry rot and termite infestations.
Every year you should inspect your deck for any areas that could lead to a collapse. Let’s go over the different areas that make up a deck.
1) The Ledger: The ledger provides most of the decks integrity and strength; and is the piece of lumber that connects your deck to your home or any structure the deck is being built off of. The ledger supports the joists at one end and helps provide the stiff base for the framing to branch out off of. Now keep in mind, if you were building a free standing deck it would not have a ledger.
2) Footings and Support Posts: The footings are holes dug down into the soil to allow room for the concrete to be poured. A metal bracket called, post base connectors will be placed into the center of the wet concrete. Once the concrete is dry, the connectors will be secured and the support post can be installed. You may ask why concrete is poured to hold the post in place. 1) Allows posts to stay in place for years to come. 2) Helps prevent earth to wood contact, which will lead to wood rot.
3) Deck Beams: The deck beams are large structural beams that create the main support framing of the deck. The beams rest on the support post allowing you to continue building with the rim joists and joist framing.
4) Rim Joists and Joist Framing: The rim joist is the final joist that completes the row of joist supporting the floor. The joists are planks of wood running across the deck normally spaced 12”-16” apart; which are then secured to the ledger board with joist hangers. Hurricane ties are often used to connect the joists to the drop beams allowing a strong frame all the way around your deck.
5) Header: The header is the outer piece that connects to every joist at the opposite side of the ledger board.
6) Blocking: The blocking are small pieces of wood that are cut to size and inserted at mid span between all joists that span longer than 8’ and around the perimeter. This is to strengthen the frame, and reduces the bounce in the deck.
7) Deck Boards: Deck boards are the lumber that makes up the floor of a deck. These are the boards you will actually be standing on.
8) Railings: Railings are essentially a wall that branches up from the perimeter of the deck, ensuring that you will not fall off the side of the deck. Railings will also run down one side or both sides of the stairs.
9) Stringers: The stingers are the frame work of the stairs. The stringers will be attached to the rim joist securing it to the deck using a metal angle bracket. The stingers will also be attached to the landing on the ground.
10) Stair Treads: The treads are the horizontal planks of a set of stairs on which a person walks. The treads can be composed of wood, metal, plastic, or other materials.
11) Stair Risers: The riser is the “back board,” to the steps of the stairs, forming the space between one step and the next. Some stairs do not have risers, some have an open concept creating an open space between each tread.
Now I know you may be saying to yourself, well that is great that I now know the different areas of my deck, but what is it that I am looking for when inspecting it?
Take a look at the sealant/paint. You want to make sure none of the paint is chipping away allowing moisture to penetrate the wood. Make sure you are cleaning and re-sealing your deck annually.
Splintering of the wood. Wood that is soft to the touch or crumbling in your hand when you touch it.
Sagging deck boards. This can mean you have a moisture problem and you will want to replace any boards with this problem, before it leads to something more serious, like it breaking and someone falling through.
Check all brackets. Make sure screws, bolts, nuts are all secured and in place. Also make sure the lumber setting in the brackets are in good shape and not deteriorating.
Try to wiggle your railings at the perimeter of the deck and along the stairs. If they move then you have a problem that you need address right away. It could be something as simple as tightening some bolts, or something more serious like a wood rot, which in that case the wood would need to be replaced.
Make sure your check the ledger board if the deck is built off of a structure. The leading cause of deck collapse is due to some type ledger board failure. Think about it, the ledger board is holding up one whole side of the deck and if it fails the whole deck is coming down. Check the hardware used to attached the ledger to the structure. Do you notice any bolts backing out or any splits in the wood? If so call a licensed contractor like Best Rate Repair to come out and assess the problem and get it corrected as soon as possible.
There are several other scenarios that can cause a deck to collapse. Be sure to perform a once over every year. Call Best Rate Repair today at 619-229-0116 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the 10 point deck safety checklist from NADRA (North American Deck and Rail Association) to help you perform your annual inspection. If after you have performed your inspection and you feel like you need a professional to come out, call Best Rate and one of our deck specialist will come take a look and address any areas of concern. We want to help you make sure your deck will be safe, and around for many barbecues to come.