Deck and Patio Blog

Deck Safety Checklist to Ensure Your Deck is Safe

September 30, 2014

Unfortunately, deck collapses are not that rare. Just this summer, a deck collapsed during a child’s birthday party, trapping several children and adults underneath. The cause: deck was not up to code and was attached to the house by regular nails! Built in 2004, it’s astonishing it lasted this long. Is your deck safe? Summer might be over, but here in Maryland we use our decks almost year round, so there can’t be any safety slip-ups. To determine this, a thorough inspection might be necessary. You can either do it yourself or contact a professional Maryland deck contractor to walk you through.

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Particularly consider inspection if:

  • Your deck was there when you first purchased the house
  • Your deck is five years old or older
  • You live in a rental home
  • Your deck has never been inspected as far as you know
  • You have a reason to believe your deck was not built up to code

What to Look for

When inspecting your deck, there are several things you should be looking for:

Signs of Rot

Look for flaky wood that crumbles away easily. Push into the wood with a nail to check how easy it is to penetrate—wood shouldn’t be soft or spongy. Also check for wet spots and mold—a moisture issue could be present but has not manifested into rot yet. Rusty hardware is another giveaway of a compromised deck.

Signs of Insect Infestation

Several insects like to either consume wood or burrow inside of it. Carpenter bees, for example, can drill holes in beams underneath your deck. If you see saw dust on the ground, there’s a chance bees are to blame. Termites, on the other hand, actually eat cellulose contained in wood. They do it from the inside, so it’s not always obvious. When insects keep causing the damage undetected, they can eventually hollow out beams and posts and cause them to break.

Loose or Missing Nails

Underneath your deck, look for empty holes where a screw or a nail used to go. Tag on some screws and bolts to make sure they are firmly attached. It’s possible for hardware to fall off due to rot or the fact that it wasn’t fastened correctly in the first place.

Shaky Railings

Check all the railings to make sure they are firmly attached. There shouldn’t be any movement when you hold on to the railing or lean on it.

Wobbly Stairs

Every step of the staircase should provide a solid platform for your foot. When one of the boards is wobbly, this could indicate a loose nail. Nails sticking out of the steps is another hazard you should be on the lookout for.

Damaged Boards

Wooden decks don’t last forever—in fact, they don’t last long at all without proper maintenance. Boards can start splitting, splintering and cracking as your deck ages.

Misused Hardware

This one is the hardest to spot, especially if you don’t know which hardware should have been used in the first place. This is where a professional Maryland deck builder can help you determine if your deck was built with the right tools. Meanwhile, you can check the ledger board—the part of the deck that attaches to the side of your home. It should be secured with long bolts and slightly separated from the siding with washers to allow for drainage. If all you find there are regular nails, then your deck is in trouble.

What’s Next?

Once the inspection is complete, it’s time to assess the damage. If you find multiple hazards on a deck that wasn’t constructed under your supervision, there is a chance it’s not up to code. You can schedule an appointment with a building inspector to find out for sure. Hopefully, your examination doesn’t reveal anything serious, but if your deck is deemed dangerous, a good approach is to start fresh. This way you’ll know that your deck has solid bones and will last for years to come.

Contact us if you are looking for a reliable Maryland deck contractor. We can help you evaluate your deck and devise a plan on how to move forward with the new construction.

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Charles County Deck and Patio Contractor: La Plata (20646), Port Tobacco (20677), Rock Point (20682), Waldorf (20601, 20602, 20603)

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Montgomery County Deck and Patio Contractor: Olney (20832), Damascus (20872), Laytonsville (20882), Silver Spring (20910), Clarksburg (20871), Gaithersburg (20878), Germantown (20876), Bethesda (20816), Chevy Chase (20815), and more.

Prince George's County Deck and Patio Contractor: Bowie (20715, 20716, 20720, 20721), Beltsville (20705), Adelphi (20783), College Park (20740,20742), Greenbelt (25689), Hyattsville (20781, 20782, 20783, 20784), Landover (20785), Laurel (20707, 20723), Springdale (20774), Upper Marlboro (20772, 20774), Woodlawn (21207).

St. Marys County Deck and Patio Contractor: Leonardtown (20650), Mechanicsville (20659), Lexington Park (20653), Piney Point (20674), Tall Timbers (20690)