Improve Deck Safety During Monthlong Observance
With May being national Deck Safety Month, now is a great time to look for potential safety hazards. Home remodeling projects delayed due to poor economy leave many decks and outdoor structures in need of inspection and repair.
How many area decks are all decked out for the summer?
Steve Huggins, owner of Archadeck Outdoor Living of West County, urges homeowners to check decks to ensure a safer summer. He is an Ellisville resident who services deck owners in Wildwood, Eureka, Ballwin and West St. Louis County, as well as his hometown area.
“Many of us have delayed home repairs and improvement until they are absolutely essential,” said Huggins. “Even then, sometimes homeowners don’t have enough information to decide when something is optional or truly a safety hazard that could result in an injury.”
To help homeowners with safety decisions, especially for decks that are more than 10 years old, Huggins' current campaign includes seven deck safety inspection guidelines associated with the reminder acronym of “BE SAFER”:
Look at the condition of deck boards. While most wood will show some minor cracks and splits over time, boards should be good, and not rotting or damaged.
Decks should be built using a variety of fasteners and metal hardware connectors. Check every connection on the deck to make certain they are not corroded or compromised. Look for nails backing out, red rust and other signs of corrosion that can weaken the integrity of the deck.
If visible, look at the posts, beams and joists that provide the structural framework of the deck. Is there any noticeable sagging between supports?
The attachment of the deck to the house is where most deck failures occur. Ensure the deck is properly attached to the house with bolts and is properly flashed for water protection. Nails should never be used.
Foundation / Footings:
The foundation/footings support the weight, also known as the load, on a deck and the columns that bear on them. A footing that is sinking may cause a noticeable sag in an area or a column to separate from a beam.
Check areas where people exit from the deck, usually stairs. Check the condition of the material used on the stair stringers, stair treads and risers. Do the stairs require a handrail? Is there adequate lighting to safely use the exits at night?
Look at the condition of the rail posts and sections of railing to make sure that they aren’t loose or wobbly. Verify that the pickets/balusters are fastened securely and spaced no more than four inches apart.
To keep decks from weathering too much in hot St. Louis summer periods, Huggins said it depends on the material used. "If the deck is comprised of wood, it needs to treated and stained properly every two to four years," he said.
"If it was built with a manufactured deck product, such as composite and PVC, it needs to be cleaned periodically, such as once or twice a year."
He said Archadeck teams typically use about 30 percent wood and the remaining is a combination of composite and vinyl materials.
If someone has a deck that is overdue for staining and maintenance, homeowners can take a few steps. "It would depend on if the deck is structurally sound and up to code. If it is sound, a few of the boards that might be bad can be replaced. We then recommend power washing the deck one or two times and then staining or sealing it.
"Also remember that decks do not last forever. If your deck is over 10 years old, you should consider a deck replacement."
Prices for deck safety improvements vary by deck design and materials, however, Huggins said Archadeck typically does not charge for an actual deck inspection. "Once we do an inspection, we will then make a recommendation, whether it be to replace the entire deck or to repair areas of the deck."