Once again May is national deck month. I am a member of the North American Deck and Railing Association; they participate in building code revisions and updates to make decks safer and keep the public informed. In keeping with deck month and the fact that many of us are cooped up looking for things to do; well cooped up. I have attached a deck safety checklist. This list gives you some of the general things you need to keep an eye on for deck safety. Decks do have a life expectancy. Most experts give a deck about 20 years. In addition, many decks are built by homeowners not necessarily familiar with the latest “best building practices”. It’s a good idea to check our decks before we load them up with humanity for the summer activities.
In addition to the deck safety checklist I wanted to share some of the most common defects I find inspecting decks:
Missing or improperly installed connectors – Nearly every wood to wood connection should be a mechanical connector, installed per the instructions for that connector using the specified type and number of fasteners. Joist hangers, joist hold downs, beam to post, post to footing, stair stringer to deck and landing connections, etc. are the major points of connectors. However, one major point of connection is the ledger board for a deck that is attached to the house for support. This area gets the most weather, is subject to rot, is somewhat hidden and is the point of failure for a large number of deck collapses.
I recommend you start by inspecting the ledger board if it is supporting the deck at the house side. Freestanding decks, not being supported by the house are usually still fastened to the house for lateral support and may experience the same issues.
Below is a diagram showing some of the main areas to check. The link to the NADRA checklist is
I hope this provides you some guidance to help maintain your deck.