Six Things to Check for the Safety of Your Deck

by Matthew BreyerMay 24, 2018

Now that spring has sprung and the weather is getting warmer, it’s the perfect time to spend outdoors with your family and friends. What better place to enjoy good times and good weather than on your deck? It’s a great option for weekend barbecues, birthday parties, catching up with friends, and more!

However, before using your deck this season, it is important to ensure that it is safe for use. Just like any other part of your home, your deck requires attention and maintenance. Here are six things to check to help ensure the safety of your deck.

Decaying Wood

If you have a wooden deck, one of the most common (and dangerous) hazards is decay. This problem often occurs in hidden areas of your deck and can attack critical joints. Search for areas that tend to remain damp or are regularly exposed to water.

Here’s one way you can check for decay: use a tool such as a screwdriver and penetrate the wood surface. If you are able to penetrate ¼ – ½ inch deep and break off a sliver of wood without any splinters, or notice that the wood is soft or spongy, decay may be present.

Some areas of a wooden deck that are especially susceptible to decay include:

  • House Walls
  • Railings
  • Stairs

Security of the Stairs

Another important part to thoroughly check is the deck’s staircase. Inspect the connection at the top and bottom of the staircase to ensure the frame cannot move from the deck’s structure. Metal bracing or brackets, if installed properly, are good ways to prevent this.

Make sure that the stairs’ treads and risers aren’t loose and that the railing is secure. If you notice any of these parts to be damaged, rotted, or insecure, it is best to repair or replace them immediately.

Loose and Corroded Fasteners

Fasteners are vital pieces of your deck and should be checked regularly. These include nails, screws, and anchors in the ledger board. Tighten any loose fasteners you find and pound in any nails that may have popped up.

If you locate any fasteners that appear to be rusty or corroded, it is highly encouraged that you remove and replace them. Corroded fasteners can cause deterioration in surrounding wood.

Surrounding Trees

While not attached to your deck, surrounding trees can still pose a safety hazard to you and your guests. If there are trees near your deck, look for any overhanging limbs that show signs of decay. These may be liable to break free and fall onto your deck. If you find any limbs or branches like this, it is best to have them removed immediately.

Electrical & Lighting

If your deck has a lighting system, take the time to make sure it is all working. Clean the light covers to allow the maximum amount of light to shine through. If there are any plants or tree branches blocking light, it would be best to trim them. If you are unsure if there is enough illumination in key spots or pathways, consider adding more lighting products.

Ensure that any and all electrical outlets or appliances are up to code and in good condition. If any children are present, make sure your outlets are childproofed. If there are any electrical cords on or around your deck, make sure they are not a tripping hazard.

Flashing

Your deck’s flashing is another important component that deserves regular attention. This is the metal or plastic guard that directs water out and away from sensitive areas of your deck. Often, it is installed where your house and deck come together in order to keep moisture from collecting between the house and the deck’s ledger board.

Inspect your deck’s flashing and make sure that it is still firmly in place. If you find areas where water is being allowed to collect, consider adding more flashing in order to prevent mildew and decay.

Ensure Your Deck’s Safety This Spring

While you are looking forward to great times with family and friends on your deck this season, it is important to conduct annual maintenance checks so that everyone can enjoy your outdoor space safely. The above recommendations are not exhaustive but will have you well on your way to years of backyard barbecues and birthday parties in the warm weather.

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About The Author
Matthew Breyer
Matthew Breyer is the owner of Breyer Construction & Landscape, a family-owned residential remodeling company in southeastern Pennsylvania that specializes in designing and building custom outdoor living areas and other home improvements. Matt wears many hats in this role, including Lead-Designer where he works directly with clients as well as supporting the rest of the BCL design team as they work to understand our client’s dreams, needs, and concerns — and create a unique solution to ensure the finished project exceeds expectations. When not working, Matt enjoys spending time with his family, as well as serving as president of the North American Deck and Railing Association.
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