Do a Spring Deck Safety Check Before you Decide to Repair, Resurface or Replace Your Decking
Spring is upon us and it is time to prepare our outdoor living spaces as we transition from cozy fireplaces and soft throw blankets to roasted marshmallows and patio furniture! Before we move out onto the deck, it is a good idea to perform a quick inspection to make sure that it is ready for another season of backyard living! It is also a good idea to check the safety of a deck structure when purchasing a home with an existing deck or prior to selling your own home.
Check the Deck Ledger to House Connection: The deck ledger is the part of the deck frame that attaches the deck to the house. The lumber framing member is generally attached to the house with lag or through bolts on a home with siding. If your home is brick or has cantilevered (no foundation) sections, your deck may be free-standing and not have a ledger board at all. The ledger board should be flashed with corrosion resistant flashing to prevent water damage. Some deck boards and siding may need to be removed to be able to see the flashing. If there is no flashing, it is a good idea to check the ledger board for rot. An easy way to do this is to simply poke the board with a screwdriver. If you can poke the screwdriver into the wood easily, the ledger board should be replaced. You can also check to see if the wood is rotting between the board and the house by adding some lag bolts. If the bolts grab well, the wood is still good. If they just spin, there may be rot in the house wall.
Check the Joist to Ledger Board Connection: The joists are the boards that run perpendicular to the ledger. They will be supported by a beam or beams depending on the overall size of your deck.
Joists should be connected to the ledger with u-shaped brackets called joist hangers. If any hangers are missing or rusted, they should be replaced and can be purchased at any home improvement store.
Heaved or Sinking Piers: If your deck is pushed up or dipping down near the posts and beams, serious issues such as the deck becoming disconnected from the house can occur. If caught early, and your deck has ample room to work underneath, the piers, posts, and beams can be replaced. It is important to check local code to ensure any new piers, posts, and beams are installed correctly to ensure the issue does not recur.
Deficient Railings: Railings are an especially important aspect of the safety of your deck. To test the strength of your railings, grab the top rail and pull towards you. If you can move the railing more than a couple of inches, you may need to repair or replace it. It is also a good idea to check for rot using the screwdriver test. If you can easily push the screwdriver into the wood, it needs to be replaced. If the wood is in good condition but the railing still moves, it is likely that fasteners need replacing. Adding ledger screws or lag bolts to the framing connections and railing posts can help add to the railing strength.