From The Detroit News | By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
DETROIT, September 8, 2023 ~ Have you ever walked on an outside wooden surface and wondered if it’s safe?
Whether a step, front porch, or deck surface, it’s natural to have concerns about its safety.
Wet wooden surfaces can be very slippery.
If not built and maintained properly, wooden steps, porches, and decks can pose a risk to your health. In fact, thousands of injuries and deaths occur each year due to faulty construction and lack of maintenance.
The higher a deck is off the ground, the greater the chance of injury if something goes wrong. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure the structural integrity of your deck to prevent accidents and maintain its longevity.
September 10, 2023 ~ Chuck “The Inside Guy” Breidenstein and Ken “The Outside Guy” Calverly offer the knowledge and resources you need to make the home of your dreams a reality. Catch them every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon on 760 WJR.
We love our decks in Michigan, as they provide a wonderful outdoor space for relaxation and entertainment with family and friends. However, it’s important to regularly inspect your deck or porch for stability issues and potential hazards.
By following a few simple steps, you can help to ensure that the deck is safe and secure for everyone to enjoy.
Assess the deck surface: Start your inspection by checking the deck surface for any soft areas or flexing. These can indicate rotting or weakened material or even fasteners that have let go. To further investigate, use an ice pick or a small Phillips screwdriver to gently probe for rotten or punky wood or composites. If you find any such areas, they should be promptly repaired or replaced.
Examine the deck-structure connection: Pay close attention to the point where the deck meets the structure of your home. A board called a ledger is commonly connected to the house at this point. Ensure that it is properly secured and flashed, as debris accumulation in this area can lead to premature wood decay. Use a screwdriver and a leaf blower to remove any debris lodged between the deck and the structure. This simple maintenance task can significantly extend the lifespan of your deck.
The mechanical connections at this point are also critical. Galvanized metal hangars should help support the joists and either stainless steel or appropriate zinc fasteners should be used for all connections.
Check railing stability: While inspecting the railings, look for any signs of movement or flexing. Loose fasteners can compromise the safety of these guard rails. Inspect, repair, and tighten any loose railing fasteners to ensure stability.
All such rails should be anchored to the deck frame to adequately support people leaning against them. Examine all parts of the rail and rail supports for any signs of rot or decay and address these issues promptly.
Investigate underneath the deck: Take a moment to inspect the deck frame for any signs of wood or fastener decay, under sizing or over spacing of deck joists.
Assessing hardware: Check all the hardware components, such as bolts, nails, and screws, for any movement or rusting. Rusting hardware or any hardware improperly installed, can compromise the integrity of the wood, leading to potential structural issues. Replace any rusted or damaged hardware with the appropriately specified fasteners to maintain the deck’s safety and stability.
Verify stair safety: If your deck includes stairs, it is essential to ensure their proper and secure attachment to the deck structure. Each individual step should be within code and securely fastened. Inspect the stair treads for any signs of wear or damage and replace them if necessary. Properly secured and well-maintained stairs are crucial for preventing accidents.
Check post foundations: Examine the post foundations by digging a few inches around them. Look for any signs of settling or rotting wood, which can compromise the stability of the entire deck. If any rotting is detected, prompt action is necessary to repair or replace the affected posts and prevent further damage.
Regular deck and porch inspections are essential to ensure the safety and longevity of these outdoor spaces.
By following the steps outlined in this article, you can help to identify stability issues, address potential hazards, and maintain a structurally sound deck or porch.
Properly specified, built and maintained decks should last for decades. To help with this task, contact a professional at InsideOutsideGuys.com.
For housing advice and more, listen to “The Inside Outside Guys” every Saturday and Sunday on 760 WJR from 10 a.m. to noon, or contact them at InsideOutsideGuys.com.
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