4 Warning Signs of an Unsafe Deck

Decks can be a great place to entertain and enjoy the outdoors while having the comfort of being at your own home. However, if decks aren’t properly constructed or are in disrepair, they can become dangerous places.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the CPSC, 224,000 people were injured nationally due to a deck or porch between 2003 and 2007. Of those injuries, 33,000 were a result of a structural failure or collapse.

The CPSC estimates there are more than 40 million existing decks in the U.S. and more than 20 million decks and porches are older than 15 years – making them well beyond their average lifespan. In addition to these decks being beyond their average lifespan, many of them were constructed before 2009 or before true deck codes existed.

You may be wondering if you need to repair or replace your deck – below are 4 warning signs that you can follow that will tell you if your deck may be unsafe:

1. Heaved or dropped footings

Either a heaved or dropped footing can cause a deck to become uneven or unstable. Once you get into the winter months this is where we can see heaving which happens from freeze/thaw conditions. Dropping is often the result of footings being poured on disturbed soil, such as backfill. When you notice one or both of these issues, these are tell-tale signs that something needs to be done. If these issues are caught early enough, it usually means you just need a repair job, however, if something becomes severe or has been like that for a long time, then your deck may need to be replaced entirely.

2. Missing or corroded metal connectors

The International Residential Code or IRC requires metal connectors at key places: ledger to structure; post to beam, joist to beam and joist to the ledger. If any of these are missing, often connections are simply toenailed together. If, and when, the rood starts to rot, nailed connected will start to come apart and not hold. However, the metal connection maintains their support better even if rot starts to take place. One way to avoid wood deterioration is to replace any rusted connectors.

3. Improperly flashed ledger board

Flashing is used to prevent moisture and debris from collecting between the structure and the deck’s ledger board – and rot. If the flashing is missing, one way to test the wood is to use an ice pick or screwdriver. If the wood is easily penetrated ¼ inch to ½ inch, or the wood is soft and spongy, then this means it is likely time to replace – and can be an indicator the whole deck may require attention.

4. Inadequate railings

If you notice the railing on your deck can be moved more than an inch or two at the top, then this is an indication that it is time for a replacement. The International Residential Code for deck rails requires any deck more than 30 inches above the ground to have a guardrail, though any deck with a guardrail must follow code. The IRC also requires that rails be a minimum height of 36 inches above the deck surface. Stair rails must be 34 to 38 inches above the nosing of the stair.

If you think your deck needs a repair or replacement, please give Sunset Ridge Exteriors a call to book an appointment for a free no-obligation quote.