Summer has arrived, and the season for outdoor living is in full swing. People use their backyard decks for cooking, sunning, and entertaining at all hours of the day and night in neighborhoods around the country.
However, before you start utilizing your deck, make sure it's safe and structurally sound. Begin by performing a visual inspection of the entire deck on a yearly basis. To spot problems, you don't need to be a skilled builder or home inspector; you only need to know where to look. The ten most prevalent flaws that might lead a deck to fail are listed below.
When a deck is attached to the house directly, it is supported by a ledger, which is a long, horizontal pressure-treated board. Each floor joist's end is normally secured to the ledger using a metal hanger. In the majority of catastrophic deck collapses, the ledger is either badly corroded or incorrectly anchored to the house. A continuous piece of metal flashing should run along the ledger to prevent water from seeping behind and degrading the ledger. The flashing must continue up behind the house siding and overlap the upper edge of the ledger. If your deck's ledger is missing flashing, you'll need to add it, which is a straightforward process if your deck runs parallel to the house. Pry up one or two rows of decking, install the flashing, then reinstall the deck boards. If the decking runs parallel to the house, though, you'll have to raise each deck repair board to uncover the ledger.
Piers with Cracks in the Concrete
Vertical wood pillars lie on top of concrete piers or extend down into concrete-filled holes on most elevated decks. Inspect the state of the concrete, in either case, to ensure it hasn't cracked or started to collapse and disintegrate. The diameter of the piers should also be measured. Each one should be around three times the width of the post to give enough support. Concrete blocks, bricks, or poured-concrete piers are most likely used to support an on-grade deck that is near to the ground. Examine beneath the deck with a flashlight to ensure that none of the supports have shifted, fractured, or sunk into the earth. Jack up the deck if necessary, add temporary bracing, and then replace any broken supports.
Posts That Aren't Very Effective
Elevated decks are often supported by tall vertical wooden supports. Most modern decks are supported by 6x6s, which are significantly stronger and more dimensionally stable, meaning they're less likely to bend, twist, warp, or split than 4x4s were in the past. Examine each pillar to ensure that it is properly secured to the concrete pier at the bottom and the deck frame at the top. Poke around the base of the post with an awl to check for water damage. The post is rotting if the awl digs deep into the wood if the wood fibers are mushy and spongy. If a post shows symptoms of rust or deterioration, it should be replaced as soon as possible.
Beams That Don't Work
Large horizontal beams lay on top of the support pillars or piers on all but the tiniest decks. All of the floor joists are supported by the beams. As a result, the state of the beams determines the structural integrity of the entire deck. Look for major fractures and water damage in the beams. Make sure the beams are securely attached to the tops of the pillars or piers. Examine each beam throughout its length to ensure it is not drooping beneath the weight of the deck. You'll need to reinforce it with one or more support if that's the case. If the beams are made of untreated lumber, they must be at least 12 inches above the ground.
Floor joists that aren't up to par
The ledger board and beams, as previously stated, support all of the floor joists, which are typically spaced 16 inches on the center. Metal joist hangers are frequently used to hold the ends of the joists. Make sure each hanger is securely attached in place using hanger nails rather than screws or regular nails. Replace any joists that are badly fractured or have been damaged by water or insects. Pay special attention to the joist ends, which are prone to decay and splitting. Look for drooping or severely bowed joists.
The joists must be at least 18 inches above the ground if they are made of untreated lumber.
Flaws in the decking
While composite wood and PVC (plastic) decking are becoming more popular, the great majority of decks still use hardwood deck boards. Examine each board for evidence of decay, insect infestation, water damage, splinters, major fractures, and popped fastener heads as you go back and forth across the deck.
Railings that are rickety
Decks that are higher than 30 inches above the ground in most towns are required to have a perimeter railing. At all times, railings must be kept in good functioning order. Begin by inspecting each railing post to ensure that it is securely fastened to the deck frame and is free of significant cracks, decay, and insect damage. Instead of nails or decking screws, lag screws or carriage bolts should be used to secure railing posts. Check to see whether the posts are splitting at the notches if the bottoms of the posts are notched around the rim joist.
Stairs that are not safe
If your deck contains a staircase or set of steps, inspect each component for evidence of structural damage, such as big cracks, loose connections, and missing fasteners, such as treads, stringers, handrails, balusters, and support pillars.
Water damage, rot, bug infestation, mold, and mildew are the most common moisture-related problems at the bottommost step and the bottom ends of the stringers. Check to see if the top of the steps or staircase has pulled away or dropped down from the deck frame.