HomesOutdoor

Deck Safety: Is Your Deck as Safe as it Could Be? Now’s the Time to Make Sure

Deck with stairs

Now that spring has sprung and gone, the summer is pretty much here and the weather is getting warmer, it’s the perfect time to spend time outdoors with family and friends. And what better place to enjoy good times and good weather than on your deck? It’s a great option for weekend barbecues, birthday parties, catching up with friends, and more!

A home with a deck is also often a great selling point for potential homebuyers, making it an investment that can pay off at sales time should you have decided to add one to your Waterloo Region home.

However, before using your deck this season, it is important to ensure that it is safe for use. Just like any other part of your home, your deck requires attention and maintenance. Here are five things to check to help ensure the safety of your deck (Homebuyers take note, these are things you/your home inspector should be on the lookout for too if you are considering buying a decked property)

Decaying Wood

If you have a wooden deck, one of the most common (and dangerous) hazards is decay. This problem often occurs in hidden areas of your deck and can attack critical joints. You’ll most often find wood rot and decay in areas that tend to remain damp – especially after a rainstorm – or are regularly exposed to water (the site of a kid’s paddling pool perhaps)

Here’s one way relatively straightforward way you can check for decay: use a tool such as a screwdriver and penetrate the wood surface. If you are able to penetrate ¼ – ½ inch deep and break off a sliver of wood without any splinters, or notice that the wood is soft or spongy, decay may be present.

Some areas of a wooden deck that are especially susceptible to decay include:

  • House Walls (where the deck meets the outside walls of your home)
    Railings
    Stairs
    Stair risers

It is especially important, in terms of user safety, to thoroughly check the deck’s staircase. Inspect the connection at the top and bottom of the staircase to ensure the frame cannot move from the deck’s structure. Metal bracing or brackets, if installed properly, are good ways to prevent this.

Make sure that the stairs’ treads and risers aren’t loose and that the railing is secure. If you notice any of these parts to be damaged, rotted, or insecure, it is best to repair or replace them immediately and stop using the deck at all until the repairs are completed.

Loose and Corroded Fasteners

Fasteners are vital pieces of your deck and should be checked regularly. These include nails, screws, and anchors in the ledger board. Tighten any loose fasteners you find and pound in any nails that may have popped up.

If you locate any fasteners that appear to be rusty or corroded, it is crucial that you remove and replace them as soon as possible. Corroded fasteners can cause deterioration in surrounding wood and cause the deck itself to become unstable and dangerous.

Surrounding Trees

While not attached to your deck, surrounding trees can still pose a safety hazard to you and your guests. If there are trees surrounding your deck, look for any overhanging limbs that show signs of decay. These may be liable to break free and fall onto your deck, especially should they be caught up in a summer storm. If you find any limbs or branches like this, it is best to have them removed immediately.

Electrical & Lighting

If your deck has a lighting system – and most do – take the time to make sure it is all working properly before ‘deck season’ gets into full swing. Check bulbs, wiring, and connections and clean the light covers to allow the maximum amount of light to shine through. If there are any plants or tree branches blocking light, it’s time to trim them back.

Ensure that any and all electrical outlets or appliances are up to code and in good condition. If children make regular use of the deck – or pets come to that matter – make sure all of your outlets are childproofed. If there are any electrical cords on or around your deck, make sure they are not a tripping hazard.

Flashing

Your deck’s flashing is another important deck component that needs regular attention. This is the metal or plastic guard that directs water out and away from sensitive areas of your deck. Often, it is installed where your house and deck come together in order to keep moisture from collecting between the house and the deck’s ledger board.

Inspect your deck’s flashing and make sure that it is still firmly in place. If you find areas where water is being allowed to collect, consider adding more flashing in order to prevent mildew and decay.

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