Is your deck in tip-top shape or in need of repairs? Time and weather can affect the beauty and safety of your deck. Every year, smart homeowners complete a visual inspection of their deck. That way, you can detect defects before they become bigger issues. From a home inspector’s perspective, these are the areas to review to maintain a safe deck:
- Ledger- Your deck is attached to your house with a long horizontal board called a ledger board. Your deck is then constructed out of floor joists that are fastened to the ledger board. The primary reason decks fail is that the ledger board has deteriorated and is not properly fastened to the house. Keep wood decay at bay by checking to make sure the deck has the proper flashing running along the ledger. Also, make sure the ledger board is bolted tightly to the house with either lag screws or carriage bolts directly into the frame of the house – not just the plywood sheathing.
- Concrete Piers– The next step is to view your deck from the ground up. Typically your deck will have vertical posts that rest on top of concrete piers. Make sure the concrete piers are not badly cracked or crumbling. If so- have a contractor dig out the old piers and pour new ones.
- Posts– Carefully inspect each post to ensure it is securely attached to the concrete pier. Probe the bottom of the post with a screwdriver to make sure the wood is not rotten or spongy. Replace as needed.
- Beams– Check the horizontal beams that support the floor joists for any cracks or water damage. View the length of each beam to make sure it is not sagging under the weight of the deck.
- Floor Joists– Be sure the hanger for each floor joist is firmly fastened in place with hanger nails – not common screws or nails. Pay close attention to the end of the joists as that is where they are most likely to rot or split.
- Decking- The vast majority of decks are still wood – not PVC. Inspect each deck board for signs of rot, insect infestation, water damage, splinters, or popped nail heads. Remove and replace any damaged decking.
- Railings-Railings are another area where we see potential safety issues. Confirm that each rail post is firmly attached to the deck frame and is free of cracks, rot, and insects. Make sure each baluster is securely fastened to the horizontal rails, Balusters should be sound and not spaced over 4 inches apart. The handrail should not have any splinters or rough edges.
- Stairs– Check all the parts of the stairs – treads, stringers, handrails, balusters, and support posts for cracks or missing connections. Check the bottom step carefully as it is closest to the ground and more susceptible to water or insect damage. Make sure the top of the staircase has not pulled away from the deck frame.
- Bracing – On taller decks, you should have diagonal bracing to help stabilize the deck and prevent swaying. Inspect for cracking or rot- especially at the ends. Confirm each brace is securely fastened with large screws or carriage bolts.
By conducting an annual deck inspection and making the necessary repairs, you can enjoy the safety and comfort of your deck for many years to come.
Once you complete your deck inspection – if you see items that concern you- take a picture and we can have an inspector review it. We have a relationship with one of the best inspectors in the area – Scott Emerson with BPG Inspections.