We all love our backyard decks, but is it a safety hazard?

The deck completes the backyard and makes an inviting space during the warmer months that many of us look forward to each year. The backyard deck is filled with BBQs, outdoor parties, and gatherings throughout the summer. But is it a safety hazard? 

It doesn’t feel like a dangerous place, but if it’s not built correctly or properly maintained throughout the off season it could become one. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that around 20 million decks across the country are either structurally unsound or have the potential to be a hazard in some way, which puts you and your family at risk. 

Dangerous decks in our backyards are more common than you think! 

Statistics actually show that 6,000 people are injured annually from collapsing decks. You must be wondering how that number can be that high, it turns out that many decks were either built in a way that violates current housing codes or have deteriorated over time. 

If your deck was built before 1980, it’s likely that it was made with wood that wasn’t properly treated to prevent termite infestation. The average lifespan of a deck is around 15 years. If your home has a backyard deck that was built around 30 or 40 years ago, always make sure to have it inspected by a professional to identify or fix any hazards that may be hiding in your deck. 

As the summer months are here and you’re planning on spending time with family and friends on your deck, it is extremely important that you make sure your deck is in tip top shape ahead of time. Don’t ruin a perfect summer BBQ, because you didn’t properly check your deck for lingering hazards! 

Tips on how to inspect your backyard for wood damage 

Many of us have built our deck ourselves, which is great, however if it was constructed more than 15 years ago or if you simply suspect it might not be in the best shape, make sure to take some time to inspect the wood and other elements that may surround it. One of the most obvious signs that your backyard deck may be damaged is if you start to notice large cracks in the boards or posts, which can then lead to more serious structural damage down the road. 

Another tip for ensuring your decks structurally sound is to check the entire deck for signs of rotting wood and termite holes. It may not be obvious at first, a trick is to use a screwdriver to poke around at any areas that look weak or break off easily. Check to see if the wood is spongy or if it feels soft inside, it’s important that you remove the rotten area and consult a professional, like us at Executive Craftsman, to evaluate the extent of the damage. 

Rotting wood is caused by water damage and fungi. In general wood is typically affected by the elements that surround it 24/7. Your deck is continually exposed to snow, rain, sun, and wind this can all be factors in causing your deck to decay, especially over the decades of exposure and without proper maintenance. 

Structural signs your deck may be unsafe 

Make sure to pay close attention to any strange noises or movements that you may notice while walking around and spending time on your deck. If you begin to hear loud creaking, notice warped or weak boards and also wobbly railings are all extremely important signs to look for. 

Examine your deck to confirm it has the proper structural connections. If you don’t see the standard bolts and metal connector plates supporting your deck and only see nails, your deck is structurally unsound. Finally, take a look at the wood posts supporting the weight of your deck and make sure they’re not off center on their concrete footing. If you don’t have any concrete footing at all and your posts are touching ground, this is usually a coding violation.