Just like your home, your deck can’t be expected to last or keep you safe unless it’s correctly built and maintained. Most experts agree that the average life expectancy of a wood deck is 10 to 15 years, and estimate that millions of decks in the US may be presently unsafe. The good news, however, is attention to deck safety can prevent most deck collapses.
If you’re building a deck or already have one, you should know how to evaluate its construction to make sure it’s structurally sound and safe. Using the proper structural connectors and fasteners (like nails and screws) as well as regular maintenance are the keys to a safe, strong deck. It’s a good idea to inspect your deck annually to make sure all your connections are strong.
5 Warning Signs of an Unsafe Deck
Below are the warning signs you should look out for to determine whether you may need to repair, retrofit or rebuild your deck.
- Missing Connections
A deck should be built using a combination of wood, nails, screws and metal connectors. Look at how your deck is built. If you see nails but no screws or connectors, your deck may be unsafe.
2. Loose Connections
Depending on how the deck was built, vital connections may have loosened over time as a result of loading, temperature changes and other factors. Issues such as wobbly railings, loose stairs, or ledgers that appear to be pulling away from the home are all causes for concern.
3. Corrosion of Connectors and Fasteners
Metal connectors, nails and screws can corrode over time. Look for rust and other signs of corrosion that can undermine the structural strength of your deck.
4. Rotting Wood
Wood can rot and decay over time with exposure to the elements. Wood within the deck frame that has rotted can make your entire deck unstable.
5. Cracked Wood
As wood ages, it’s common for cracks to develop. Large or numerous cracks can weaken your deck, making it unsafe for use.
Repairing or Retrofitting an Existing Deck
If you’ve determined your deck is unsafe, you’ll need to repair or retrofit it or, in some cases, rebuild it altogether. If rebuilding your deck is not feasible, there are improvements you can make on your own if you have the proper tools and hardware. However, some cases may require the professional services of an engineer and contractor. Just be sure that anyone you hire is licensed and has a good reputation. Once the work is done, remember to have it properly checked and inspected on a regular basis.