Deck Safety - Don't Trust What You DON'T See

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723
https://activerain.com/droplet/4wjC

This is a solidly-built deck.

It is properly and securely attached to the house.

The stair cases are well done, strong, straight and square.

There are lights at the top of the stairs and staircase.

The deck has been well sealed, not only against water but the sun's UV rays.

And the guardrail is securely through-bolted to a double joist and blocking is there to further add strength.  It is 36" high, as required.

But this deck is unsafe!  Not for what you see, but for what you DON'T see.

Why?

Two reasons:

1.  There are spaces in the guardrails that an adult could dive through.

2.  Children see that guardrail as an invitational ladder to climb to the top.

These homeowners don't have small children or grandchildren in the house.  They never considered it.  But who will buy this house?

 

 

This is a safe guardrail, which meets the local codes.  And it was County inspected, unlike the deck above.  The deck above is missing vertical balusters!

The local code happens to require that the balusters, even the decorative ones like the "sunburst" shown here, have any space no wider than, what turns out to be, my hand.  Even at the bottom of the guardrail.  It has been called the "Coke Can Test."  Not much more than a coke can should fit through the space.

A small child's head cannot get stuck.  Children are not encouraged to climb.  And there is still room to sweep off leaves or snow.  In every jurisdiction I do inspections in, it is considered safe.  It's also good looking.

My recommendation:  Even though a deck is strongly built, straight, square and sealed, it might not be right.  People don't know what they don't know.  Ask a home inspector!  Chances are real good he will know!

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 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. D B 07/09/2010 01:13 AM
  2. Roland Woodworth 07/09/2010 04:56 PM
  3. Diane Williams 07/10/2010 02:18 PM
Topic:
ActiveRain Community
Location:
Virginia Prince William County Bristow
Groups:
Active Rain Block Party
Professional Home Inspectors
The Vent
Adventures in Home Inspecting
Tags:
home safety
permits
deck safety
deck guardrails

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Show All Comments
Rainer
215,888
Diane Williams
Pell City, AL

Jay, Years ago  my son fell head first off a old deck built like your first picture. A chair broke his fall.   When I am showing houses that still have these old style decks, it sends chills down my spine.  Thanks for a much needed post.    

Jul 09, 2010 05:08 AM #36
Rainmaker
1,847,215
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Rich - I am sure any soda can works just fine!

Richard W. - the current code just happens to be my hand width.

Brian - I like to leave one at every deck inspected... kind of a calling card, um can.

Michael - all correct sir!  Next it will be narrower and made of metal able to withstand 600 pounds of gorilla force!

Julie - that is proactive!  Good thinking and within the code.

 

Jul 09, 2010 06:22 AM #37
Rainmaker
1,847,215
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Shanna - that should be an easy fix for you.

Joe - hence the code requirement!  Remember, the code is a minimal legal requirement.

James - that handrail code began in 1998.

Diane - that will bring back some memories!

Jul 09, 2010 06:25 AM #38
Rainer
75,304
David Selman
Selman Home Inspections, Inc. - Dallas, TX
Certified Master Home Inspector

Nice post Jay. Good reminder. As a North Texas Home Inspector, I am surprised how often I find both interior and exterior stairs with balusters greater than 4" apart. Inspectors will do well to remember to right this up every time as a SAFETY HAZARD.

Jul 09, 2010 11:57 AM #39
Rainmaker
544,206
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Great post. Safety is important. I let people know while showing houses the "little things" like this.

Jul 09, 2010 12:23 PM #40
Rainmaker
1,847,215
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

David - you bet!  I always write it up.  Safety is number one for most people when looking at a house.  Anything safety related is important to them, especially when they have children.

Eric - and all the "little things" add up, don't they!

Jul 09, 2010 12:44 PM #41
Ambassador
627,922
Roland Woodworth
Q Realty - Clarksville, TN
Q Realty - Power In Real Estate

Jay... you make a great point here.... Well built is one thing... Safty is another.

Jul 09, 2010 04:55 PM #42
Rainmaker
1,847,215
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Hard to determine which is more important Roland!  Oh, they both are...

Jul 09, 2010 10:46 PM #43
Rainmaker
166,473
Tina Gleisner
Home Tips for Women - Portsmouth, NH
Home Tips for Women

These decks get built by homeowners who think they know what they are doing ... or often, just want it done this week and don't care about the required building inspection. Many of the "Chuck in a Truck" handymen will build one and don't care becuase you can't find them to hold them liable if there's a problem.

We guarantee our work and simply won't put up a deck with out a building permit. That's just common sense for everyone ... and if you want to stay in business.

Jul 10, 2010 03:25 AM #44
Rainer
59,049
Helen Breton
Main Street Properties - Pensacola, FL
Broker Associate

Great post! We should be aware of the construction of the deck and the construction material used. There are still class action lawsuits against some of the composite companies for manufacturing defective materials and deaths are ocurring because of collapsing decks due to faulty construction. Also I remember reading about a case a few years ago, where an agent was showing a house and the buyer opened the back door and stepped out thinking there was a deck there and it had not been constructed yet.

Jul 10, 2010 03:42 AM #45
Rainmaker
1,431,210
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Good point.  Although kids can accomplish amazing things.  My son one time got is head between the rails on the stairs.  I do not let him out until I got a picture.

Jul 10, 2010 05:38 AM #46
Rainer
37,947
Michael Emerson
Keller Williams Realty - San Juan Capistrano, CA

Often times design or cost savings take precedence over safety. Good post.

Jul 10, 2010 06:11 AM #47
Rainmaker
1,535,036
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

100 to 1 the owner did not want to look thru the slats in the deck when sitting down. Should have put the glass inserts in it then.  Great post on what to look out for or better yet 'what you should see but don't.

Jul 10, 2010 08:20 AM #48
Rainmaker
1,537,880
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Here in Bonner County there are no longer building permits issued. So... safety issues fall on the shoulders of home inspectors.

Jul 10, 2010 09:34 AM #49
Rainmaker
1,847,215
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Tina - that is common sense that more people should acquire!

Thank you Helen.  Around here, until a deck is installed the door to it is prevented from opening on the outside.  Once constructed the deck guy removes the door locks!

Thanks Gene.  As a child, I was a monkey and no rail invented would have stopped me if I wanted to climb it.

Michael - that is truly the case! And it's too bad.

Jul 10, 2010 11:10 AM #50
Rainmaker
1,847,215
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Lyn - plexiglass inserts are a great idea and beautiful every time I see them!

Marte - that is crazy!  Home inspectors aren't code specialists!  I do inspections in 19 jurisdictions and the codes are different in each one!  There is no way I could keep up with the 500,000 or more codes in some of these jurisdictions!  And home inspectors have no jurisdictional authority if they do find something unsafe!  Who came up with the idea that some home inspector take over the county safety regs??

Jul 10, 2010 11:45 AM #51
Rainer
174,736
Lisa Orme
The Master's Key Realty LLC -Windsor, CT - HARTFORD COUNTY - Windsor, CT
Broker/Realtor, ABR, CRS,GRI, PSCS, SFR, Notary Pu

Thanks for another great post Jay--I continue to learn from you!

Jul 10, 2010 03:06 PM #52
Rainmaker
1,847,215
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Lisa - I am happy to hear that!  Thanks for stopping by as often as you do...

Jul 10, 2010 11:12 PM #53
Rainmaker
131,417
Mike Henderson
Your complete source for buying HUD homes - Littleton, CO
HUD Home Hub - 303-949-5848

That's why I recommend my clients go with a home inspector.

Lenn's first comment - I have looked at a ton of HUD's, REO's, and foreclousres.  About 10 to 1 of the houses that people would call traditional.  My favorite client has a saying, "Stay away from the Home Depot."  He is refering to the prior owners since they do not know what they are doing should stay away.

Jul 11, 2010 05:33 AM #54
Rainmaker
1,847,215
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Mike - I have heard that phrase too!  And I would always recommend a home inspector.

Jul 11, 2010 09:38 AM #55
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Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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