Deck Safety

It is an undeniable fact that gravity works all the time.  So, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, what is not firmly on the ground or attached to a stable structure will eventually find itself on the ground.  Knowing that gravity is a constant is comforting in most instances but disturbing when spending time on a raised deck.  Between 2000 and 2008, deck failures and collapses resulted in 30 deaths. Since most time spent on a deck is supposed to be relaxing, it is important to know that the deck is safe and secure.  Although May is Deck Safety Month, deck maintenance should be an all-year-round  item so, here are a few tips to ensure your deck is safe and stays where it belongs.

; Inspect the Deck.  A homeowner does not have to be a professional inspector to check their deck for safety. Is there rotten, cracked or damaged wood visible? Any corrosion on exposed metal bracing or parts?  Any loose or missing connections?  Any of these conditions can make the deck unsafe and it is recommended to have a structural engineer or contractor evaluate before use.

Second; Is the deck designed for the weight load? A deck that has been built using local building permits with the appropriate building codes will be able to withstand the effects of gravity, wind uplift and lateral movement. The effects of gravity include the structure of the deck itself, people standing on the deck and any snow or ice build-up.  Wind that flow up from under the deck or people standing on an overhang both create a lifting effect. Lateral movement (horizontal, side to side) is generated by foot traffic and leaning against railing and also in an earthquake or seismic event.

Third; Is the load path continuous? A continuous load path is a construction method that solidly connects the deck framing to both the ground and adjacent support structure, such as a house.

Fourth; like gravity, rust never sleeps. So, over time bolts, screws, nails and metal connectors will rust (corrode) and weaken the deck. By upgrading to stainless steel, corrosion of the metal components is greatly reduced.

Last; maintenance is the key! By sealing, painting caulking tight seam areas and removing and replacing loose or damaged boards or nails will extend the life of the deck.

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