Deck Safety Checklist: Enjoy without Worrying

Deck Safety Checklist: Enjoy without Worrying

Take a moment to consider how much outdoor decks have to put up with year after year – bugs, snow, rain, sunlight, traffic. Should we go on? You get the picture. We all do. What we often fail to see or hardly realize is that deck accidents do happen. They happen due to rotten sections, damaged components, loose railings, and a whole lot more reasons.

It’s no surprise that NADRA (the North American Deck and Railing Association) has set May as the deck safety month. That’s perhaps the best time of the year to check the deck and fix its problems, right before you step out and enjoy your backyard in the summer.

It’s crucial to remember that even if your deck was built by a professional team, it will still get its share of beating. Professional deck building or not, such structures must be checked annually and thoroughly for the prevention of accidents.

Deck safety checklist, what you should inspect

Deck Safety Checklist: Enjoy without Worrying

It’s fair to say that not all decks are the same. Some are ground-level decks, some stand on pillars, some go around the house, some are pool decks, and some are multi-level decks. That’s to say that different structures may have different components. Their problems may vary too. For example, the chances of facing moisture issues are higher with pool decks than with decks well-protected. That’s unless the flashing system is broken.

So, let’s move on and start with the obvious question. What parts of the deck to check?

  •          The deck’s substructure, anything from joists and footings to wood posts. Common problems in this lower part of outdoor decking involve insect infestations, rotting, warped wood, and more.
  •          Check the flashing and overall drainage system. Flashing is a metal sheet next to the ledger board. Its job is to prevent water from approaching wood. If there’s a water management system under the deck, check that it’s not clogged or broken and thus, ensure that water will be channeled away from the wooden deck.
  •          Inspect the surface of the deck. This inspection should involve all components, from the boards to the stairs. You are looking to find splinters, broken or loose boards, cracked stairs, insect damage, rusty sections, protruding fasteners, and more.
  •          Check the deck railing – if any. Despite the material, there might be some rotting, warping, corrosion, insect infestations, and more. You need to be sure the railings are stable and all balusters are in place, and not broken or loose.

What to look for – common outdoor deck problems

  •          Moisture is the greater enemy of wooden decks. Even dense hardwood decks, like ipe decking, may have some rotten sections if they are hardly checked and maintained. Or, if there was flashing damage or some water drainage problem. Meticulously checking the substructure, focusing on the area around the ledger board, is critical. If you see anything broken or notice that some wooden sections are particularly soft (push with a tool, like a screwdriver), it’s best to contact a deck builder. Rotten wood is the number one problem with decks and must be addressed at once. As we already mentioned, it’s also vital to check the flashing and the flashing tape since they are the barriers that keep wood intact from water.
  •          Fasteners hold the whole structure together. It’s vital to check them all. Or, see if there’s anything protruding. If your deck is old, it probably has nails. If it’s relatively new, it’s properly built with screws. There are fasteners everywhere – joists, boards, beams, posts, etc. Fasteners do not only protrude but may also rust or be missing.
  •          The most common problem with deck railings is loose handrails and balusters. You need to shake the railing system and closely observe the condition of all parts to avoid problems that may cause falls.
  •          Beyond checking the actual structure, it’s always best to check outdoor lighting and cables to make sure everything is okay.
  •          If there’s a pergola over the deck, take a look at it too. Pay attention to the structure’s pillars and the beams overhead. If you notice anything out of place, like damaged fasteners, rotten wood, warped wooden sections, or others, make sure to contact a pergola builder.