Deck Safety

Deck Safety

May is National Deck Safety Month, and a recent collapse in Malibu, California, highlights the importance of making sure your outdoor space is well maintained and ready for use. Did you know that, locally, significant repair or replacement of a deck is subject to code requirements and more than one inspection? Counties in Northern Virginia, like Fairfax, have some of the strictest codes in the country that cover a wide range of the construction details of a solid, safe deck. Here are some important deck considerations to keep in mind.

Get to Know Your Deck

You should be aware of the details of your deck. Compared to your home, your deck construction will be less solid, which means that it’s important to make sure the structure is built properly. Is there an appropriate foundation, are the supports sufficient for the material and the size, is it properly bolted to the house … each of these questions and more need a confident “yes” as an answer. Because of the openness of a deck, the long-term exposure to the elements means that a typical deck lasts from 15 to 40 years depending on the materials used. Knowing the age of your deck, how it was constructed and it’s recommended capacity are important steps to maintaining deck safety.

Watch Out for DIY and Amateurs

It may be tempting to do some spot repairs or use a guy with a truck and a tool chest to do work on your aging or damaged deck. Not only do you run the risk of a code violation, you also may miss an important issue that makes the deck a safety hazard. Often spot repairs fail to consider that the untouched areas of the deck will continue to age, so a deck with new flooring may look great, but it could be hiding worn support beams from view. Work with a licensed professional to make sure you are doing it right.

Get it Inspected!

The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) recommends working with an ASHI inspector to confirm that your deck meets code and that it’s safe for use. NADRA recommends an annual inspection. Let them crawl underneath and check the entire deck from the foundation up to the railings. An inspector can identify safety hazards and recommend whether repair or replacement is the right way to go. An inspector can also point out how and where the deck doesn’t meet current code requirements. A qualified inspector will be able to tell you the deck capacity and other safety information as well.

Buyer Beware

In today’s incredibly hot seller’s market, there are likely to be other buyers willing to take the property as-is. This doesn’t mean you should take that risk. Having a walk and talk inspection that includes the deck can flag whether it will pose a problem in the future. Not only is it a safety concern, but if you had any intention of doing other remodeling that will require a building inspection, a deck that isn’t to code could get flagged during that inspection and you’ll have to spend the money to repair whether you’d planned on it or not.

Scott Biller is an NADRA certified deck inspector and a member of NADRA. If you have been neglecting your deck, or you have any concerns about its integrity, contact Biller & Associates for an inspection today.