In Season 7 of Holmes on Holmes I went to Saint John, New Brunswick to help a woman who had a second-storey deck installed by a contractor 4 years earlier. Unfortunately, the homeowner was on her deck with her three best friends when it came down, all of them hitting the brick pathway below.
The consequences of a deck collapse are life changing: Broken friendships, broken bones, a lifetime of physical therapy, sometimes bankruptcy, and in some cases, even deaths. Does anyone forget an accident like that? Not a chance.
Most people think that building a deck is easy — throw a few boards together, add some nails and fasteners, stain it and you’re good to go. But a deck is a structure, and its construction must be taken just as seriously as any other structure in your home, like your roof or floors. It takes a real professional to build a deck right.
On top of being a structure, it’s a structure that is beaten by weather 24/7, which means it requires extra durability and security.
If the deck is off the ground, the support below must be able to safely handle the natural forces of gravity, as well as any extra weight (i.e., people, barbeques, chairs, tables, etc.). Anyone building a deck must know how to properly transfer that weight (or load) to the ground below and the support structure beside the deck, which is usually the home.
I care about deck safety because deck accidents are preventable, and not caring leads to injuries and sometimes fatalities.
Decks are structures that must be checked regularly. Get a deck inspection at least once a year, after winter so that the proper repairs can be made and your deck is ready for summer. I would also check it at the end of deck season sometime in the fall, to help prepare and protect your deck for winter.
DECK SAFETY TIPS
GET A DECK INSPECTION
Hiring a professional at least once a year to point out all the red flags on your deck and the repairs it might need can prevent a serious accident.
LOOK FOR MISSING AND LOOSE CONNECTIONS
Important connections could have degraded over time, especially along stairs, railings, joists and deck boarding. If they feel loose or wobbly they must be tightened or replaced.
CHECK THE LEDGER BOARD
The ledger board connects your deck to your home. It should be attached to your home’s structure using bolts — not nails or regular screws! A widening gap between the house and ledger means the bolts need tightening. If there are any signs of rot or decay the ledger board should be replaced.
CHECK FOR CORROSION
Look for rust on all hardware (fasteners and connectors) and replace as necessary.
LOOK FOR DECAY OR ROT
Check all wood components, including deck boards, railings, stairs, posts and columns for cracks, decay and overnotching.
Watch Mike Holmes on Home to Win on HGTV. For more information on deck safety, visit: mikeholmesinspections.com/services/deck-inspection.