Homeowner Deck Safety
We all want to get out and enjoy our decks. Beck maintenance means so much more than just cleaning your deck. It means making sure your entire deck structure is in good, safe order. Just like your car, you need to evaluate, tune up, and keep your deck in a safe operating condition on a regular basis. The following checklist can help you do just that.
Key areas to check:
- Test railings and banisters. Assure the security of these key pieces of the deck by gently pushing on them to assure they are firmly attached with no “give” that could indicate failure. Then, get a yard stick out. Most codes require a 36” high railing (and usually encourage 42” high railings) with rail placed no more than 4 inches apart (measured from the inside of the rails) to keep small children and pets from squeezing through.
- Search for split of decaying wood. Check several different areas of the deck to be sure the wood is still sound, including the ledger board (where the deck attaches to the house and a common source of deck failure), deck boards, railings and stairs. Look for soft, spongy areas in the wood that can indicate insect damage or decay.
- Step carefully. Check each step to make certain of security and lack of decay. If an area behind the stair treads is open, this opening should be no more than 4 inches high. A fast tip is to also keep stair pathways clear of planters, décor, toys and other items that can present a tripping hazard.
- Check your fasteners. Over time, fasteners may “pop” from wood, loosen or even corrode. Check nails, screws or anchors and reinforce or replace anything that looks suspicious.
- Clean up debris. Make it a priority to clean away leaves, branches or other debris from your deck. When left in place, these can be slippery and promote mildew. If you’re already seeing mildew on the deck, or the deck coating has worn away, now is the time to clean and apply a new waterproof coating. Your deck and stairs should pear even without sagging, and should not sway or move when tested. Plus it is important to check on anything used on the deck, such as grills, lighting, storage and furnishings. Making these easy evaluations part of your yearly springtime maintenance can help keep your entire family safe.