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Tips for performing an annual deck inspection

Backyard decks should be checked for any hazards before planning any outdoor events this summer.
Backyard decks should be checked for any hazards before planning any outdoor events this summer.

For many homeowners, summertime means entertaining on the deck with family and friends; however, before doing so, it is important to make sure the deck is up for the task.

According to Erie Insurance Group, a homeowner should inspect their deck for the following five things—especially if it is older or was not built by a professional.

  • Splintering boards: If the deck is made of wood, maintain its condition every year. Changes in weather can significantly impact durability. One common problem occurs when boards are weathered and begin to split and stick up, causing potential cuts or tripping hazards. It is important to use proper footwear and replace boards that could be splintering.
  • Handrails: As the nails and screws originally installed work themselves out, handrails can become less secure. Changing weather and varying temperatures are to blame, as warmer weather expands the wood, leaving more room for the nails and screws to move. Therefore, it is important to test the stability of the handrails. They should not wobble or bend, and if they do, it might be time to replace them.
  • Stairs: Much like handrails, stairs can lose strength and durability as they become weathered or used extensively. If they are not properly secured, stairs can become serious tripping hazards, especially for younger children. If the stairs bend when walking up/down them or there are any splits in the wood, it is definitely worth addressing.
  • Support posts: The largest safety concern for a deck depends on the stability of the supports that hold it up. Many people are not aware that, aside from weather, insects can be a big threat to deck structure. Termites and carpenter ants are examples of insects that can do the most damage to wood structures. If an infestation is found near the deck, it is a good idea to call a pest control professional. If wood is splitting or decaying, inspect it with a flathead screwdriver, inserting it into the suspect areas. If the screwdriver can be placed 6 mm (0.25 in.) or more into the wood, or if the wood has a spongy consistency, this could be a sign of rotting.
  • Nails/screws: Fasteners play a significant role in the safety and stability of the deck. Those that were built before the ’80s were supported using nails alone, which is problematic because they do not have the ‘teeth’ that modern day fasteners. This means, over the years, it is easier for nails to loosen, causing boards and support structures to become unstable. Those homeowners whose deck falls under this category should contact a local contractor to be sure this will not become an issue.

Homeowners should use their best judgement and if something does not look right, address it as soon as possible. If unsure, contact a professional.

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