Birthday parties, graduation celebrations, family barbecues – no matter what your summer plans include, chances are many of those festivities will take place on your deck. Before you plan any seasonal fun this summer, take some time to ensure your outdoor space is safe and structurally sound so you can set your mind at ease all year.
Age, exposure, and the shortcomings of wood can lead to problems.
According to recent statistics from the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), more than 40 million decks in the United States are 20+ years old. Building codes, construction methods, and decking materials have changed considerably in the last two decades. Plus, since decks are outdoor structures, they are always at the mercy of weather and extreme temperature fluctuations which, over time, can lead to structural breakdowns.
Even the most beautifully built decks need an annual inspection.
But what if your deck isn’t that old? Even so, the substructure likely is wood, and wood rot is one of the main culprits responsible for deck failures (a term used to describe any deck or railing failure that leads to injury or total deck collapse). Ledger board issues are another concern.
Proper ledger board installation is essential.
The ledger board is the piece of lumber that runs parallel to the edge of the house, attaching the deck to the house. Usually the first board installed, the ledger board supports one end of the deck joists and bears about one-half of the deck’s weight. The board must be the same material and size as the rest of the joists, and it is must be attached firmly – and with the correct fasteners – to avoid deck collapse.
Water… The number one enemy of wood
Another cause of deck failure is wood rot. This usually results from the wood’s being exposed to water due to improperly installed (or missing) flashing. When the moisture content in wood reaches 19%, wood rot (which is actually a fungus) goes to work. The damage, however, isn’t always visible at first – yet another reason to do an annual deck inspection!
Five Things You Can Do to Keep Your Deck Safe
NADRA provides a listing of qualified deck inspection members who must comply with state licensing and insurance requirements as well as adhere to a code of ethics (visit www.nadra.org for more information).
Another great resource from NADRA: their Check Your Deck® Consumer Checklist. This informative 10-point guide covers everything from locating wood rot to trimming tree limbs. We’ve summarized some key points below.