Deck Safety - Don't Trust What You See

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

We home inspectors have lots of message boards and ways to communicate with each other.  And we do!  We send around photos and report verbiage and ask advice of each other all the time.

Another thing we do is pass around photos of schlock work and we all laugh at some of the unbelievability of what we see!  But even we jaded home inspectors understand safety, and you should know that it is a big part of what we do.  Some of the things we report may seem innocuous and insignificant, like, "There is no anti-tip device installed behind the range," or something along those lines.  While those things may sound stern and nit-picky, they really are safety commentaries.

My post the other day about the Deck Trampoline may have seemed ridiculously funny and the title delivered the post in a funny way.  But it really is a safety issue.  That deck provided fodder for a dozen posts, which I won't do.  My advice for whoever buys that house (because my clients wisely ran away like scared little girls) is to rip it down.  It is unsafe.  And I'm not just talking about the deck!

Sometimes things aren't as they appear.

My routine when I walk out onto a deck is to push on the guardrails.  Why?  Because we all have the habit of leaning on a rail when we are next to one.  I am checking on the safety of the rail.

If it is wobbly my job is to determine why.  The rails on this deck were extremely weak and wobbly.

Look carefully at this corner post.  There is a lot wrong here. 

The decking is notched around the post.  The lower guard rail is inappropriately attached (as was the top rail).  The balusters are nailed on with one nail, and all were rusting, which indicates interior nails were used.  All of that is not, what we call, "best practice," and screams unprofessional work.

When something is unprofessional on a deck, mostly everything else will be too.

But why the wobble?

The notched post is an indicator that the deck is not secured properly to the post.  The connection should be a through bolt.

On this deck, the connection on both sides was provided by three nails!  And they were rusting too! Exterior applications should always use nails, or screws, or bolts - materials - that are made for outdoors use!

But look at the bottom of that corner post!  It is merely resting on top of the deck column!  There were seven guardrail posts and ALL were installed this way.

The deck is only 5' off the ground.  BUT IT IS STILL DANGEROUS!!  And dangerous for anybody!

My recommendation:  You know what happens when we assume.  When you see a deck, don't assume it is correct unless you have a home inspector look at it first!  Every year we hear the stories of a deck collapse and subsequent injury.  There are reasons for that.  Hire a home inspector!  Lean safely, my friend...

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Jennifer Dulmaine 07/04/2010 08:35 AM
  2. Jay Lloyd 07/04/2010 12:33 PM
  3. D B 07/05/2010 02:22 PM
  4. Diane Williams 07/10/2010 02:12 PM
Topic:
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Location:
Virginia Prince William County Bristow
Groups:
Ask the Home Inspector
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Professional Home Inspectors
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Tags:
home safety
deck safety
unprofessional work
deck guardrails

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Rainmaker
351,690
Aaron Vaughn | Builder | Investor
Conifer Homes - Fischer, TX
If the deal makes sense, the cash will follow.

Hello: It is so true with all wood deck and all wood products -- many things can be hidden beneath the surface!

Jul 05, 2010 04:57 PM #24
Rainer
437,789
Terry Chenier
Homelife Glenayre Realty - Mission, BC

Jay,

I'm handy and I get people asking me to "fix" something. Usually, it's tear-down and start over.

Jul 05, 2010 05:41 PM #25
Ambassador
525,439
Tom Branch
RE/MAX Dallas Suburbs - Plano, TX
Broker, CDPE, SFR, ACRE, Plano TX Ambassador

Thanks for the information.  I've seen more than a few that are not in bad condition but were very poorly designed.

Tom

Jul 05, 2010 07:05 PM #26
Rainmaker
1,846,640
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Aaron - not to mention drywall, which can cover a multitude of sins!

Terry - unfortunately when you are dealing with Uncle Bob work, that is often the best course!

Tom - and such a design might contribute to a weakened state as the deck ages.  Best to have that checked out when it happens.

Jul 05, 2010 11:03 PM #27
Rainmaker
403,659
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Jay:

This type of shoddy workmanship is usually a good indicator that there will be other similar places in the home that are poorly done. I am so grateful for great home inspectors like you - keeping my clients from making unsafe investments in inferior homes.

 

Jul 06, 2010 12:11 AM #28
Rainmaker
1,846,640
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Claudette - you have already seen five other posts about this house (a flip) and I could have another 50 or so!  It was a mess!

Jul 06, 2010 12:34 AM #29
Rainer
278,100
Kathryn Maguire
GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

In this area of Virginia, there are a lot of homeowners who think that they can build a deck themselves.  (It can't be that tough, can it?) And I am sure most do not have a background in construction. Another DIY job gone wrong.

Jul 06, 2010 01:07 AM #30
Rainmaker
1,846,640
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

It really is harder than it looks, Kathryn, which is why there are so many associated code requirements.

Jul 06, 2010 01:09 AM #31
Rainmaker
1,375,817
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Jay, I'm surprised it passed the inspection for meeting the code. Unless they didn't get a permit when it was built. Good Post!

Jul 06, 2010 01:24 AM #32
Rainmaker
1,846,640
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Michael - there was no way in the world that this deck had a permit, or the house (a flip) for that matter!  It has provided many posts!

Jul 06, 2010 01:27 AM #33
Rainmaker
752,797
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

Jay, we hear about Decks collapsing in our area all the time, typically overloaded on seasonal rentals...  but a problem for sure.

I have seen some shoddy work done by "professionals" too, You get what you pay for!  I know I have a tendency to over build things, I think my deck will be up longer than the house! 

Jul 06, 2010 04:42 AM #34
Rainmaker
1,846,640
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

That is a good habit to be in Robert.  The collapse problems are rife, it seems, everywhere.

Jul 06, 2010 04:46 AM #35
Ambassador
602,955
Lizette Fitzpatrick
Lizette Realty - Richmond KY - Lexington, KY
Lizette Realty, Lexington KY MLS - Kentucky Homes

Outstanding post!  Thanks for the information and I will definitely keep this in mind and I will pass this along.  Thanks so much!

Jul 06, 2010 05:57 AM #36
Rainmaker
1,846,640
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thank you Lizette!  And I am glad you enjoyed it so much!  Another one is in the works called, "Deck Safety - Don't Trust What You Don't See..."

Jul 06, 2010 06:00 AM #37
Rainer
137,004
Brent & Deb Wells
LivingWell Properties - Prosper, TX
Prosper TX

Jay:

I think the old adage of 'Just because you can do something, does not mean you should...' comes into play here. Most homeowners never think there is much to building or designing a deck, until it fails. Thanks for the good information.

Jul 06, 2010 09:27 AM #38
Rainmaker
1,846,640
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Brent - and we have all heard the stories of decks that have failed!  Then the codes all change... again.

Jul 06, 2010 10:06 AM #39
Rainer
478,183
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

I don't understand this part: "...my clients wisely ran away like scared little girls."

Everything can be fixed with time and money, but to say that your clients "wisely" ran away "like scared little girls" is disturbingly sexist and judgmental to me.

Jul 08, 2010 08:25 PM #40
Rainmaker
1,846,640
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

This was a flipped house and has been the subject of 7posts now Russel.  It could have been the subject of 50!  It was a scary place and probably not insurable.  We have a water feature in our back yard that explodes at unpredictable times spraying water in all directions.  All the kids come to enjoy it.  The boys run at it and the girls all run away.  That's where I get the phrase!

They "wisely ran away like Monty Python from the attack rabbit..."?

I didn't make the judgment that they should run away.  They did!

Jul 08, 2010 10:59 PM #41
Rainmaker
284,761
Gene Allen
Fathom Realty - Cary, NC
Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate

I always hate it when decks are involved because you know something is going to be wrong.

Jul 12, 2010 02:03 PM #42
Rainmaker
1,846,640
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Hi Gene - that is so often the case!  We have more decks with problems than without...

Jul 12, 2010 02:43 PM #43
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Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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