When springtime finally rolls around we all look forward to spending some quality time under the sun with our family and friends. But before you send out the invites for a weekend barbeque, you need to make sure your deck is in proper condition.
Regular inspection and maintenance can extend your wood deck’s life by 10-15 years. Here are some simple tips you can follow when inspecting your deck:
Look for the warning signs
Inspect your deck for loose screws and protruding nails, corroding fasteners and rotting wooden boards to help you determine whether or not your deck needs repairs. Having a pen and paper handy to list all the issues you spot can also help. For those bigger jobs, try mapping the layout of your deck on paper (grid paper, ideally) and track all the issues you find along the way. If you are unsure of your deck’s safety contact a professional, such as a certified deck inspector.
Protect fasteners from corrosion
Connectors and fasteners exposed to weather are prone to corrosion. Using zinc coated or stainless steel fasteners and connectors is highly recommended because they are resistant to corrosion, which helps preserve your deck’s longevity.
Fix loose connections
One of the more frequent issues is loose nails, as well as loose or wobbly connections. They can lead to serious structural issues and if not fixed, can cause injuries. A study conducted by North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) showed that more than 20 million decks are over 20 years old. Over that time, there’s a very good chance that many deck connections could have worn out, including along stairs, railings, joists, ledgers and deck boards.
Replace loose nails with galvanized, all-purpose deck screws that provide a more secure connection than a regular nail. If you have loose or wobbly connections, you can often strengthen your deck with metal hardware.
Regular maintenance and checks
Your deck should be inspected twice a year, once in the spring and at the end of summer before fall. Regular deck maintenance and checks improve its safety and extends its longevity.
Check out flashing
Your deck’s ledger board should be protected by proper flashing (around it and over it), which is usually provided by the home itself. The flashing helps channel away moisture. If water gets behind the ledger board it can rot it from the backside.
Look for a continuous load path
Your deck must be structurally sound by forming a solid connection between the deck and the house, through the deck frame and into the ground, also known as the continuous load path. Make sure that:
- The ledger board connects the deck to the house using proper fasteners, such as structural screws, connectors and/or bolts.
- The deck’s floor joists are properly secured to the beams.
- The horizontal beams across the deck are connected to the top of posts using metal connectors.
- And finally, the bottom of each post is attached to the concrete footing using a metal post base or column base.
Note: Post base connectors strengthen the attachment to the ground by preventing moisture from compromising the structural strength of the wooden post.
Dispose of materials properly
If you are replacing deck boards or other structural components that are made from pressure or preservative-treated lumber, there are many jurisdictions that do not allow these materials to be thrown in landfill sites because they are considered toxic. Also, pressure-treated lumber cannot be burnt due to the toxic fumes it releases.
Keep furniture away from railings
Keep items like deck boxes and outdoor furniture that can be climbed on away from railings, as children can use these items as climbing platforms and tumble over the deck railings, resulting in serious injury.
Watch for water drainage
When it rains, watch where the water is draining off your deck. All water should drain towards the front of your deck, not back towards your home.