From 2000 through 2006, 179 decks were reported to have collapsed that left 33 people dead and another 1,122 injured. One of the main reasons so many problems occur with decks is because homeowners do not keep up with maintenance. On top of that, many homeowners build their own decks with little experience in home improvement. Here are some tips for a deck inspection to keep safe all year round:
Check The Wood
First things first, you are going to want to check the wood for any cracks or splitting. Cracks are easily visible, but a deck inspection should not end there. Some cracks can be caused by rotting. A quick way to check for rotting is to use a flathead screwdriver. Insert the flathead screwdriver into any splitting, if the wood feels soft or damp, or breaks off without splintering, this could be an indication for rotting taking place. In addition to inspecting for cracks, keep an eye out for any holes in the wood. Insects like termites and carpenter ants burrow into wood and damage it.
The Ledger Board
The ledger board is the large piece of wood that is bolted to the frame of the house that connects the house and the rest of the deck. Check to make sure that the ledger board is attached to the frame of the house and joists with screws or bolts rather than nails. Nails can easily pop out. Also check for any wide gaps between the ledger and the frame of the house. If you see space between the ledger and the house, this means that bolts need tightening. Space increases the chance that the deck will collapse.
Flashing (The Ledger Board pt. 2)
Flashing is a metal or plastic guard that prevents water and debris from getting between the ledger board and the house. Like with the ledger board, spacing between flashing and the house is a problem. If the caulk used to seal the flashing is not intact, debris and mud can breach the guard and cause rotting.
The railings and balusters on top of your deck should not be loose at all. An easy way to inspect them is to just grab them and see if they wiggle. Second, check to see if your balusters are at least 3 feet-high and no less than 4 inches apart. If they do not meet these requirements, they are in violation of U.S. building codes. Nail loose balusters back into place or replace them with new ones.
Inspect the points where the support beams meet the deck’s floor beams. Then, tighten any loose bolts that feel loose. Furthermore, check to see if the support beams anchor into concrete. If they are not, rotting can occur from the moisture in soil.
Last But Not Least
The surface! Inspect the deck’s floor for any signs of mildew. An easy method to check for mildew is to pour water onto different parts of the deck and see if any of the water does not bead up on contact with the wood. If you find any, power wash the deck and apply waterproofing solution after it dries.