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Inspect your wood deck annually to prevent deck collapse resulting in injuries.

Inspect your Wood Deck to Prevent Deck Collapse

Posted on April 25, 2017

Wood deck collapses are increasing each year as decks age

In the United States, there are 40 million decks that are over 20 years old. Decks get a lot of abuse from the sun, rain, snow and ice. Decks are sometimes built by inexperienced homeowners and are not inspected. Even a well-built deck that is old is subject to wood deterioration and outdated building codes. Deck collapses can severely injure and even kill people. Prevent such a disaster by inspecting your deck annually.

Inspect your deck using these guidelines:

  1. Look for decayed or split wood on your deck boards, guard rails and stairs. The wood is rotted if you can insert a screwdriver or icepick more than ¾” into the wood, the wood breaks off without splintering or seems spongy. Look for holes where insects may have bored holes and nested.
  2. Check the ledger board. Unless you have a free-standing wood deck, there will be a ledger board that holds the deck against the house. The ledger should be attached with stainless or galvanized lag screws or lag bolts. Nails can pull out and should not be used. The most likely reason for a deck collapse is the improper attachment of the ledger board to the house. Check to make sure that all bolts are tight.
  3. Inspect the flashing that should be installed above the top of the ledger board. Flashing is a metal guard and helps direct water away from the area where the deck and house meet. If moisture and debris collect at this location, wood rot can occur.
  4. Push on the guard rails to make sure they are secure. Guard rails should be able to withstand at least 200 pounds of pressure. Also check that they are at least 3 feet high and the balusters are no more than 4 inches apart to prevent children from getting their heads stuck.
  5. Examine the deck support posts at the ground. Make sure each support post has a concrete footer. Probe the bottom of the support posts with a screwdriver or icepick to make sure the wood is not soft or spongy. If posts rot, they lose their structural integrity and are unable to support the weight of the deck.
  6. Examine all the fasteners on your wood deck for rust or corrosion. Fasteners include screws, bolts, nuts, nails, joist hangers and anchors. Make sure all holes in joist hangers are nailed with the appropriate nails. Look for loose screws or nuts.
  7. Clean leaves and debris off your wood deck to prevent mildew that can accelerate wood deterioration. Look for areas where water does not bead up. Power wash these areas with deck cleaner purchased at your hardware store or big box home improvement store. After drying, apply a deck finish.

After your inspection, take the necessary steps to repair and maintain your wood deck. If you follow these steps but are still not sure about the status of your deck, hire a professional such as a home inspector. Keep your family safe and enjoy your outdoor activities.

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