Homeowners take their decks for granted. Decks are degraded by the environment. Occasionally powerwashed and cleaned. Once every Leap Year maybe some preservative or staining occurs. Homeowners drag all sorts of items across them. Splintering occurs, cracks, nail pops, peeling paint, mold and mildew. You name it and it's happening to the deck. Decks need to be maintained like any other part of our homes.
There is nothing more beautiful then a well made deck. From above, all decking boards evenly spaced. All fasteners equally spaced on the face of the boards and slightly countersunk. All post of the railing securely fastened, bolted to the deck frame. All railings securely fastened to the post. No more then 4 inches of spacing between any area of the railing for safety. All stair risers the same height from top to bottom.
When on the first floor looking up at the framing of the deck, we should see a securely fastened ledger board bolted to the home, not the siding. Flashing installed up the sidewall under the siding and over the ledger board to make for a water tight connection to the home. All joist securely fastened to the ledger board with metal fasteners. All joist securely resting on a double girder which in turn should be resting on post. The post should be securely attached to a metal fastener that has been embedded in the concrete footing. The concrete footing should be a minimum of one square foot by two feet in depth and depending on what area of the country you are in, below the frost line. The post should not be in the ground.
Of course, this is not the only way to build a deck nor is it everything that should be done when building a deck. I'm just trying to provide information of what should go into the building of a deck and what should be looked for. Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it. At least it should be for the people who build decks. Too bad it's not what I find on inspections.
Every year, all over the United States, there are serious deck accidents. The frame of a deck pulls away from the home because the ledger board was nailed to the home not bolted. Or the ledger board was attached to siding which has decayed over time also decaying the rim joist of the home. What I also see are girders that are nailed to post, not bolted but nailed. Girders should rest on post and also be mechanically fastened. This shouldn't happen but it does.
When a deck collapse happens, people get seriously hurt. People get burned from a hot grill. Disabling injuries can occur and in some instances even death.
How do we know if the deck is attached properly? I look for bolts. If there is an unfinished area in the basement or crawlspace, I'll look for bolts coming through the framing with nuts and washers attached. When I have no access, I bang on the bolts to see if they are secure. I want to see the girder on top of the post.
I look for safety when it comes to our decks and a deck collapse should get us all to take a closer look at our decks. By no means is this everything that should be looked at when inspecting decks but this information should give you a heads up when viewing a deck. A great time for a deck inspection is a month before the big 4th of July Party or the High School Graduation Party or the 25th Anniversary Party. When it comes to the safety of our family, friends and loved ones $200 doesn't seem like a lot of money to protect our investment. And Why Not!
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