Deck Safety and DIY Deck Inspection Checklist
There is currently no organization or system that is monitoring and tracking deck failures. Each incident is treated as an isolated event rather than a systemic problem. In Michigan, no municipalities will perform any type of investigation into what causes a deck to fail or injure someone. The media will cover the story mentioning the injuries with little mention about what happened which caused the deck to fail. In 2017, a deck in West Michigan failed, collapsed – and injured 14 people.
“Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker said about 25 people were on the back deck when it gave way in the middle and collapsed “. In another incident, a deck collapsed in Grand Rapids and injured 4 people.
A 5-year study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed that outdoor deck failure has dramatically increased in recent years. Based on their statistics, 224,000 people have been injured by faulty outdoor structures since 2003 – including 18,000 serious injuries resulting from a complete collapse.
Facts from InterNACHI (Certified Home Inspection Institute);
- There is only a slight correlation between deck failure and the age of the deck.
- About 90% of deck collapses occurred as a result of the separation of the house and the deck ledger board, allowing the deck to swing away from the house. It is very rare for deck floor joists to break mid-span.
- Many more injuries are the result of rail failure, rather than complete deck collapse.
If you’re now worried about the safety of your deck, we’re here to help. When people are considering purchasing a deck, we often get questions about the inspection process of your deck to determine if their deck is safe. So in this article, we’ll go over many common things to look out for and how to tell if your deck might be due for replacement or if a simple repair is all you need.
Deck Inspection Tools:
- Measuring Tape
- Plumb Bob
- Probing Tool
This inspection is not intended to replace a professional home inspection or professional opinion but instead to give homeowners the knowledge to self diagnose common deck issues and make educated decisions on what products or services they feel meet their needs. Green Shield Home llc is in no way liable for any decisions made based on this free information.
When inspecting decks, we always start with the foundation. This is the bedrock that the structure of your deck is built upon and should be the first thing you look at. The cut portion of the deck posts end grain (bottom) should not be in the ground at all to prevent moisture from getting into the post and rotting at the foundation. However in reality, decks in Michigan are rarely built this way – so what we want to look for is rot at the post. Rot is expected at the exact grade level where the post goes from dirt to open air. The next place to inspect for rot is 6-12” below grade. I would dig to the side of 1 post, and see if the post looks sound.
The next place to look for issues is the ledger board. The ledger board is the board that is attached to the home that the deck hangs off. The common issue with ledger boards is they are sometimes installed with nails and the nails are not able to handle the necessary amounts of force to keep the deck attached to the home. Secondly the ledger may be attached to overhangs in a home which were never engineered to support the weight of the deck that is attached to it. Finally, we see decks ledgered to homes with brick veneer as a cladding - which is now known to be a bad practice if lacking newly invented brackets to keep the deck from separating from the home.
Here’s a quick checklist to re-cap the most important areas of your deck to inspect.
- Start with Foundation
- Check for rot deck post end grain (bottom)
- Some rot expected at transition from dirt to open air
- Dig 6-12’’ below ground and inspect
- Ledger Board (attaches deck to home)
- Inspect nails for stability and security
- Ensure ledger board attached to sturdy part of home – not an overhang
- If brick cladding, additional brackets needed
Have questions on the safety of your deck? Talk with the experts.
Does never staining your deck ever again sound appealing to you? Work with Green Shield and get started on the path to your beautiful dream composite deck today.