Those of us in the upper Midwest have earned a nice warm and sunny spring and summer, with outdoor entertainment on our attached decks. The deck or patio becomes the favorite place for many people in the Midwest in the summer. The winter snow, wind and cold can take its toll on your outdoor oasis, so a quick safety inspection is a simple project that can make sure that your deck can safely hold the crowds for the upcoming cookout or gathering or graduation party. May is deck safety month, so we’ll take a moment to go through some quick deck tips to help you to have a safe location for summer outdoor festivities.
1. Inspect the connection between your deck and house. Your deck should be connected to your house by a ledger board, which is a large piece of lumber connected directly to the house. Check if there is a gap between the ledger board and the house. Check if any of the lag bolts are loose or if there is any rot or deterioration of the board.
2. Inspect the rest of the structure–the network of beams under the deck that support the entire structure. Make sure that none of the members are sagging or twisting. Check for any evidence of rot or insect activity.
3. Check the posts. Make sure that they are sill plumb (straight up and down) and that there is no evidence of rotting wood. The base of the posts can be especially susceptible to rot because it is more exposed to moisture and debris than other parts of the deck.
3. Check the decking - the planks that make up the deck surface. Inspect these elements for any signs of rot, loose nails or screws, insect activities or splinters. Clean everything off of the deck and use a power washer or a stiff brush to remove any mildew from the top surface to prevent slips and falls. Apply a fresh coat of weather seal if it is needed.
4. Check the railings. Railings should be secure and should not move when you apply pressure to them – remember that your friends will be leaning against the rails and may even jump up and take a seat. Check the bolts that connect the railings to the structure to make sure that they have not loosened and that there is no evidence of wood rot around the bolt holes.
5. Inspect the steps. The steps should be secure to the upper structure of the deck and should not sag or sway when you step or push on them. Check the stair railings and check all of the wood for signs of rot or insect activities. Check all of the bolts and hardware to make sure that they are not loose.
6. Check all of the hardware – screws, bolts, nails and joist hangers. Make sure that they are not loose or rusted. Replace any hardware that is missing, loose or rusted.
7. Check the wood for deterioration. Use an ice pick or small flathead screwdriver to check for split or decaying wood. Basically, if you can insert your instrument more than ¼ inch deep into the wood or if it feels soft and spongy, it is at some level of decay and will need to be replaced in the near future.
8. Check the lighting and electrical. Test your lights and outlets to make sure that they are all working properly. Test any GFCI outlets and replace any burned out bulbs.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive deck inspection, but merely a checklist of things that you can do yourself. If you think you could use some assistance inspecting your deck this spring or if something just doesn’t look right, give us a call! We can help to give you peace of mind that your deck will be a safe entertainment area for the upcoming barbecue season.