Deck problems are not always apparent. It often takes a second look to see that the cedar deck is not at its finest moments or that the ipe deck has seen much better days. What would be the outdoor decking safety considerations? Anything from splinters and loose railings to the absence of lighting.
What should you do before you send the kids outside to play on the deck? How to make sure you have nothing to worry about, safety-wise? There’s a checklist you should follow to inspect all the important components and see if there’s a need for some deck repairs or not. What should you check and when should you stop to take a second look?
To properly check the deck’s surface, clean it first. Sweep and wash it, let it dry, and then check every inch of it. What are you looking to find? Since you are not a deck contractor and cannot really tell if a dent is a serious problem or a harmless glitch, make a note of anything out of the ordinary. Also, of anything you see for the first time.
Deck problems may be as simple as some splinters to problems as serious as cracks. The boards should be solid and free of cracks. If there are cracks, that’s usually due to low temps and moisture. Cracks may also happen when the deck is very old and often burdened with heavy weights. If the cracks are noticed around the fasteners, they may become dangerous since some boards may break or give.
Now, if there’s moisture, there’s likely rotten wood deck sections. Wood rots when it’s not stained and is still exposed to wet environments. Since the latter is by definition the case, you need to make sure the wooden deck remains stained. But if you find rotten sections, you will likely have to replace these boards. If the situation is bad, there’s likely mold too. Neither rotting nor mold is a good thing. Wood gets destroyed and may easily give while the surface becomes particularly slippery, in the meantime.
The fasteners hold the deck structure together and include nails, bolts, hangers, and screws. If you can, take a look under the deck to see if you detect any problems. The two most common problems with fasteners are that they can become loose and rusty. Since it’s important that the components that hold the structure together are in good shape and keep the deck fastened, take even small issues seriously.
Checking the ledger board is as important as checking the fasteners. This is the part that connects the deck with the home structure. If you check it and something seems odd, contact a deck company.
By keeping some distance – for safety reasons, try to push the railing to see if there’s movement. If there is, it means that the system is loose. This could be an emergency, especially if this is a tall deck and the children already play outside. Just don’t let anyone lean against the deck railing until the problem is fixed.
Go up and down the deck stairs with caution. If their components are damaged or the stairs are not attached to the body of the structure well, you may fall. If the wooden surface is slippery, you may have an accident.
Speaking of stairs, is this a tall deck? Because tall decks with support posts may be more susceptible to damage. The posts of all decks should be checked periodically for their strength, resistance, and stability. Even more if this is a tall deck structure, which highly depends on the durability of the posts.
Try out all the outdoor lighting fixtures once you make sure all things (cables, outlets, etc.) related to the electrical system are fine. Also, make sure all parts of the deck, especially the stairs, are well lit. Sometimes, just the absence of sufficient lighting is enough to cause an accident. Why risk it?
Keep both eyes and ears open
Overall, keep your eyes and ears open. The outdoor decking safety checklist involves much more than visual inspection. Sometimes, you may only hear – and not see, the problem. So, if there’s noise as you walk on the deck that’s not familiar, don’t ignore it. Seldom but it may happen, you can also feel a problem. That’s when you first step outside and feel a deck movement and hence – a possibility that the structure may give due to problems with the posts, board, or fasteners.