Most decks are usually exposed to different types of weather seasons such as winter, spring, and summer. All these elements cause extensive damage to decks when combined and could pose great risks to you or your family. There are situations where decks collapse and most of them occur without warning since they have survived months of harsh weather conditions without any maintenance or frequent checks. Deck safety is important for every homeowner and people are usually encouraged to perform regular audits on their decks to ensure that all users are kept safe from harm.
Here are some of the deck safety tips for both kids and the elderly:
Seek Approval Before Construction
It is essential to give yourself a month or two to look into the preliminary work since it only takes a few days to build a deck. The building code research and approvals lay a solid foundation for a deck as it regulates the location, size, and materials to be used in the structure. You can have the deck plans examined by your local building authority to ensure that they are in line with all codes. It also ensures that the location and size of your deck will not infringe on any easement or lot setback.
Invest in a Stable and Safe Deck Railing
Deck guardrails are required to be 36 inches in height or more, for all decks that are more than 30 inches above the ground. The International Residential Code (IRC) requires that the space between individual balusters be less than four inches to prevent toddlers and infants from slipping through. It is also important to note that the railing designs usually differ and the distance between the top of the deck surface and the horizontal bottom should not go beyond four inches. Professional inspectors or experts usually carry a four-inch ball when testing these space requirements. Lastly, your railing should be able to withstand a lateral pressure of 200 pounds anywhere along the top rail.
Use Screws Instead of Nails
Nails used to be the best fastener for decades when constructing decks but the standards shifted after an increase in deck collapse that was attributed to loose nails. The modern decks have embraced the use of screws because their threads provide a better grip to the wood. The most common place where nails were used was installing joint hangers or fastening joists to a rim joist. This result in a deck that is more structurally sound with little or no tendency to work loose. It is important to choose screws that are resistant to rusts and ones that do not react to chemicals present in the treated wood decks.
Understand the Importance of a Firm Footing
The foundation in which a deck is built determines its level of soundness. The construction of most decks involves a pier system that entails digging out holes below the frost line before adding concrete piers to provide support to the deck posts. The worst mistake will be to dig holes that are too shallow and not below the frost line as it can lead to a frost heave causing pier movement. The occurrence of a frost heave happens when the ground moisture expands while freezing, causing a swell and shift on the soil, which can lead to a disaster on your shallow deck posts.
Check Your Flashing
One of the safety issues for decks that keep recurring is associated with the flashing problems. Flashing is a waterproof material that creates a connection between the deck and your home. Deterioration or incorrect installations are the major causes of a failure in flashing, which can wreak havoc to your entire deck. The main purpose of flashing is to prevent water from entering your house and eroding the wood slowly. It is important to extend the flashing of your deck to a minimum of four inches up the wall where it will be attached. If you want to check your deck’s flashing, a drop of rain that hits the flashing should move all the way to the ground unimpeded.
Look for Signs of Rotten Wood
A little rot may seem harmless by the look of it but is a situation that needs attention. This can be a sign of water leakage or damage due to the fact that your deck has been exposed to months of cold weather and rains before. Over time, you will experience a green tinge on your deck signifying the growth of molds and mildew. What you see on the surface of your deck could be just a tip of the iceberg that lies underneath the foundation. It is important to take quick action as it poses great risks on the safety of kids and the elderly.
Create a Deck Maintenance Plan
If you want to prolong the lifespan of your deck then you will have to come up with a regular maintenance plan. All types of woods used in the construction of decks usually fall apart when they are extremely exposed to fluctuations in temperature and humidity levels. Unlike other parts of your home, decks often deck direct heat from the scorching sun, long rains and snow, which can cause significant damages over time. Adoption of a solid deck maintenance plan involves checking for all signs of weaknesses or damage and taking immediate action to correct the issues.
Besides carrying out your own routine checkups, it is not a bad idea to seek the expertise of a professional after every few years. This helps you to cancel out the structural problems that may not be apparent to you as the average homeowner. It is also important for your deck to meet all the code requirements starting from the basic foundation to the top. Following these practices will probably keep you in the clear but if you want to put your mind at ease, then you should consider the confirmation of your deck safety by an experienced professional in the field.