May is deck safety month. With barbecues, outdoor parties, and summertime fun around the corner, now is the time to inspect your deck and make any repairs necessary. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Follow these guidelines to ensure a thorough inspection.
Look at the condition of your deck boards. Most wood will show some cracks and splits over time, but is the general condition of the boards good, or are the boards splintering and unsafe to walk on?
A deck should be built using a variety of fasteners and metal hardware connectors to create a continuous pathway to ensure deck stability and safety. Check to see if the appropriate fasteners and connectors were used when constructing the deck. Is the hardware in good condition or need to be replaced?
If visible, look at the posts, beams and joists that provide the structural framework of the deck. What is their condition? Is there any noticeable sagging between supports?
The attachment of the deck to the house (at an area called the house band) is the area where most deck failures occur. Pay special attention to this area and check to make sure that the deck is properly attached to the house band with appropriate screws or bolts and that it is properly flashed for water protection. Nails should never be used for this type of attachment.
Foundation / Footings
The foundation / footings receive and support the weight (also known as the load) on a deck and the columns that bear on them. A footing that is sinking may cause a noticeable sag in an area or a column separating from a beam.
Check the areas where people exit from the deck. These exits usually involve stairs so be sure to check the condition of the material used on the stair stringers, stair treads and risers.
Look at the condition of the rail posts and sections of railing on the deck to make sure that the railing is secure. Check to make sure that the pickets/balusters are fastened securely and spaced no more than four inches apart.
If you’re not sure you want to take the responsibility of inspecting the deck yourself, look up a local company in your area and have a professional complete the inspection. Nadra.org and AngiesList.com are great places to find competent, trustworthy professionals or go to Archadeck.com to see if there are deck safety inspectors in your area.