A well-built patio should be a fun and enjoyable part of your home; a place to organize family barbecues, sit back with a good book on a cool morning or watch the sun set in the evening. Unfortunately, while your deck feels sturdy under your feet, it may not be as secure as you think. Each year brings new stories of deck collapses, injuries and sometimes even death!
May is deck safety month and we want to take this opportunity to help you ensure your deck is safe for use, especially as we approach the first BBQ season! According to the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), “an estimated 40 million residential and 10 million commercial decks in the United States … are over 20-30 years old.” Not only are older decks at a much higher risk of collapsing, but many of them were built before deck building codes were enacted.
To support Deck Safety Month, NADRA has put together a great 7-point checklist that you can use to quickly and efficiently assess the condition of your deck. You can view the full checklist HERE, but here’s a quick snapshot:
Test your stairs to make sure they support your weight without bending or swaying. Check that the handrails are firm and stable. Finally, remove any tripping hazards such as toys or decorations from the stairs. Are the bolts that hold the handrails securely in place?
Are there any signs that the foot is moving or leaning, is the concrete cracking? Does the base bracket post or bolts show any signs of rust? Check the post and connectors on the beam. All these components carry the load of the deck and the people on top.
3) Beams and beams
Beams are large pieces of wood or are several pieces connected together to make one large beam. If you have several pieces, look closely to see if there are any signs of spoilage or dry root. Beam hangers are there any signs of movement or rust? How is the bar connected to the ledger? Are there lateral load connectors?
4) General ledger
If a deck is attached to a house, you normally have a ledger. What is it attached to? Stucco, edge beam with flashing, what does the gutter look like? Is the flashing installed behind the gravel-style exterior cladding?
5) Decking or the decking surface
This is the area we see the most, we walk across it, storage BBQ, toy boxes, potted plants. Do the ends of the decking boards split, is there dry rot under the pots? Does the patio surface need to be cleaned and resealed? Some decks have a waterproof deck coating. When was the last time it was inspected and re-surfaced?
6) Handrail structures and protection
Guards are required if the walking surface is more than 30 ”above the slope. Most of the guards in CA. must be 42 inches high. Is the barrier post properly blocked between the joints and does the hardware show signs of rust? Does the handrail feel firm when you put a wight on it?
Check the wood around your patio, including the decking, railing, stairs, beams, support posts, and especially the ledger board (where the deck will be attached to the house). Look for dry rot, termite damage, or wood that has worn out with age.
Flashing is what protects your patio from moisture and dirt. Check if your flashing light is still working. If you find that your flashing is loose or that it is not keeping out rain and moisture (leaving your deck vulnerable to dry rot), replace it.
Your deck is only as strong as the bolts and nails that hold it together. Check all fixings. Tighten any loose fasteners and knock the nails back into place that come out. If you notice any broken or rusted fasteners, replace them.
Make sure your railings and railings are secure. Push it gently. They should not move or sway.
Clean your patio well to remove all dirt. If the wood looks bleached or appears to be absorbing water, it may be time to re-stain your deck and apply a new waterproof coating.
Grills and fire pits
Anything that produces flames can endanger your patio and your family. Make sure that you keep all appliances that produce flames (such as lighters, matches, and lighter fluid) out of the reach of children and away from flammable objects.
Provide adequate lighting on your patio so that a person can move easily across the deck and climb up and down the stairs. Check that all your lights are working and that chords are not a tripping hazard.
Test all your outdoor furniture. Can your hammock support your body weight? Are your sun loungers still sturdy?
It may not be your deck that is the danger, but rather the heavy branches swinging overhead. Make sure there are no large branches hanging over your deck. A severe storm or San Diego’s infamous El Nino winds can crash a branch through your deck.
This seven-point control system shouldn’t take long to get through, and then you can enjoy your patio in peace again! If you notice problems with your patio or if you don’t feel comfortable doing the check yourself, you can always call Best-Rate Repair. We are happy to send a deck expert to your property to perform a security check or assess any damage you notice.
If you’re concerned about your deck, it’s best to call an expert! You don’t want to risk a deck collapsing and hurting you or someone you love!