The North American Deck and Railing Association reports that there are over 40,000 decks in the country that are over 20 years old. Decks can become increasingly dangerous over time. As a gathering place for friends and family, every effort should be taken to ensure the safety of your home's deck.
There have been over 30 deaths from deck collapses in the country from between 2000 and 2008. Statistically, deck collapses are catastrophic; over 75 percent of people on a deck during a collapse die. In an effort to raise awareness of this serious home maintenance issue, NADRA has declared May to be a national deck safety month.
We offer professional deck evaluations to Atlanta area home owners, providing information on deck capacities, any issues that might be present, and an idea of what areas should be watched carefully. There are also safety checks that you can perform on your own deck to ensure it's safety.
Using a sharp tool, like an ice pick or screwdriver, check different areas of your deck for rotten or splitting wood. Pay close attention to areas that may have a tendency to stay damp, stay in contact with water, or have fasteners attached. If you can reach them, check the ledger board (where the deck attaches to the house), support posts, joists under the deck, decking and railings. If you encounter wood that can be easily penetrated (1/4 to 1/2 inch), are able to knock pieces of wood off without splintering, or find any soft spots, you may have decay. Keep an eye out for insect damage while you're at it.
Flashing is a metal or plastic guard that is often installed at the ledger board where the deck and house come together to keep moisture and debris from collecting. Make sure the flashing is in good shape and that it has not come loose.
Loose or Corroded Fasteners
Fasteners are all the nails,screws, or anchors in the ledger board. Tighten any loose fasteners, and if a fastener appears rusted or corroded, you may consider replacing it, as it can cause deterioration of the wood surrounding it.
The deck itself and stairs should both appear even, with no sagging. They should not move when tested.
Railings and Banisters
Push on the railing and banisters to make sure they are secure. There should be no movement when they are pushed.
This can also be a source of code issues on older decks. Most modern codes require a 36'' high railing, with a 42'' height being preferred. Rails should be no more than 4'' apart, especially if your deck is high above the ground.
Check all the railings and handrails to make sure they are sound and secure. Also check the risers and stringers to be sure they are sound and not decayed.
Usually, the area behind the stair treads is open. Make sure this opening is no more than 4'' high.
You may also consider keeping the deck stairway free of planters, décor, toys and other items that may cause someone to trip.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Leaves and other debris can promote mildew and rot; make sure to clean things us regularly.
If you do have mildew present it's time to clean and apply a new waterproof coating. It can help prevent wood decay and loose fasteners.
Grills, Fire Pits, Chimneys and Other Sources of Heat.
Many people use their deck for grilling, but make sure any source of heat is placed away from flammable surfaces, and that the deck is protected by a non-flammable pad.
Lighting and Electrical
Be sure all your lighting is working and free from debris. Also trim any trees or plants that may be obscuring your light sources.
Making sure all your electrical outlets and features are up to code and in good working condition. Childproofing is also a good idea.
Outdoor Furniture and Storage
Make sure the outdoor furniture is in good shape. Avoid placing any near the edge of the deck or the stairs. Swings and hammocks should have chains or ropes that are in good condition.
You may consider childproofing any storage boxes/benches, and keeping all chemical products away from children
Trees that overhang your deck can pose a safety issue if they have decayed limbs that could fall on the deck.
If your deck fails to meet the standards described above, it may be time to perform some upkeep. Water and termite damage are very common for the metro Atlanta area, and can destroy a deck, or other wood structures. Give us a call at 678-714-7393, or contact us online for help with any issues you may have found, or for a free, professional deck evaluation.