Decks are made up of four major parts. When any of these wear out or break, you run the risk of deck collapses or failures.
The ledger board is the flat piece of lumber – usually treated – that connects the deck to the house. When built and connected properly, the deck ledger is what stops the deck from breaking away from the house. The bolts that connect the ledger board to the side of the house need to be the right size and spaced properly. Also, in order to avoid water damage, sheet metal has to be installed to prevent rainwater from getting between the ledger board and the house. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, over 90% of deck collapses occurred as a separation of the house and the deck ledger.
What to look out for: What material is the ledger attached to? Was it attached properly with the right type of hardware? What is the moisture content of the lumber – does it look or feel wet, soft, or rotted?
Metal hardware is the deck’s major support system. Fasteners, joists, posts – these are incredibly important to the structural integrity of the deck, and there’s a science to how and where they should be placed. Most deck failures occur at the ledger board fasteners, causing the deck to disconnect from the house.
What to look out for: Is the hardware properly placed at the correct intervals? Is any of the hardware rusted?
It’s obvious why framing is important for the safety of a deck: the deck’s structure determines if what you’re standing on is stable. In most cases, decks are built properly. The real issue with framing is the quality and integrity of the materials.
What to look out for: Is the wood untreated, rotted, or decayed? Has any of the hardware come loose?
The deck’s footings distribute the weight load on the deck evenly over a large area, preventing the deck from sagging, warping, and cracking. The more footings there are, the less weight each one has to bear, and the more secure the whole structure.
What to look out for: Are there enough footings? Are they placed at the proper depth and width?
There are several components to your deck that need to be checked regularly. However, it’s issues with these four primary components that are the main causes of deck failure, which can have disastrous results. If you think you see something wrong with the ledger, hardware, framing, or footings, don’t hesitate to call in an inspector to check it out.