Is your deck safe? Many were built many years ago with sub-standard construction.
Is Your Deck Safe?
Spring is a good time to check your deck, perform any necessary maintenance, and make repairs.
Industry standards specify a 10 – 15 year life expectancy for decks. This time-line assumes proper construction and the right materials. However, most will note that there are many decks still standing that are much older than 15 years. Is yours one of them? “Since 1999, there have been more than 850 reported injuries and 20 deaths as a result of deck failures” (Build a Safe Deck, strongtie.com).
Inspect your deck for the following problems:
- Deck Boards and Under-framing
- Wood that is easily penetrated, with a screwdriver,¼” – ½” without splintering indicates decay
- Is under-framing comprised of Douglas fir pressure treated lumber? Lumber that is not treated will deteriorate at an advanced rate and is not safe.
- There should be metal flashing between the deck and the attachment to the house (ledger board). This is the most common area of deck failure. Flashing diverts water from the connection to the house, preventing decay.
- Loose or corroded fasteners
- Insure that screws and bolts are tight and nail heads are flush with the wood. Verify that the ledger board is connected to the house using bolts, not nails or screws.
- Can it withstand 200 lbs of force at any point along the top?
- Is it at least 36” high?
- There should not be more than 4” between pickets
- Check for decay and stability
- Open risers should be less than 4”
The Five Signs of a Failing Deck:
- Missing Connections
A deck should be built using a combination of wood, nails, screws and metal connectors. Look at how your deck is built – if all you see is nails, your deck may be unsafe.
- Loose Connections
Depending on how the deck was built, vital connections may have degraded over time due to various factors. Issues such as wobbly railings, loose stairs and ledgers that appear to be pulling away from the home are all causes for concern.
- Corrosion of Connectors and Fasteners
Metal connectors, nails and screws can corrode over time. Look for rust and other signs of corrosion that can weaken the structure of your deck.
Wood can rot and degrade over time with exposure to the elements. Wood members within the deck frame that have rotted may no longer be able to perform the function for which they were installed, making your deck unstable.
As wood ages, it is common for cracks to develop. Large cracks or excessive cracking overall can weaken your deck, making it susceptible to collapse.