The carefree months of summer may be coming to an end but chances are you will be enjoying the outdoors well into the fall. If you didn’t perform a quick inspection of your deck back in the spring, now is the perfect time to take a few minutes to make certain it is in good repair. Annual inspection and deck maintenance is not only a smart way to ensure it is safe for use but also will help identify issues early on before they require costly and time-consuming repairs.
Decks are responsible for a surprising number of injuries annually. Railing breakages, raised boards, stair problems, or even total collapse are common offenders. If you don’t regularly inspect your deck for structural deterioration, this heavily used area of your home can become a safety hazard.
Performing annual deck inspections should be an essential on your to-do list. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors warns that less than half of the existing decks in the US are completely safe. Luckily, regular deck inspections can save you from worrying about your next gathering ending in disaster.
Spend some time looking carefully checking for any signs of:
Splits on the surface of your deck are an opening for moisture to get into the wood, and over time this can lead to wood rot. Cracks more than a quarter inch deep should be closely inspected. Using a flathead screwdriver probe the split feeling for any sign that the underlying wood is soft. Pieces that break off without splintering are another sign that the wood is rotted and needs replacing.
During your inspection look for holes as this could be a sign of insects burrowing into the wood. Termites and certain types of beetles that feed off wood have the potential to cause the serious damage, but even holes from carpenter bees can lead to long term issues if the exposed lumber gets wet and begins to rot. Damp wood is also an entry point for carpenter ants that will hollow out lumber when building a colony. Any sign of damage from insects should be dealt with promptly to protect the structural integrity of your deck.
The support posts and ledger board (the board that holds your deck to your home) should be inspected to be certain your deck is properly supported. Check support posts where they attach to the deck beams for any loose bolts and tighten or replace as needed. Also inspect the ledger board for signs of it pulling away from where it attaches to your home. Joist hangers (the brackets that secure the joists to the ledger) should have nails or screws in every hole of the bracket. Tighten or replace missing nails and screws as necessary.
Loose railings can be incredibly dangerous if someone leans against them and they give way. Test all railings and balusters with a firm wiggle to ensure they are properly secured. Any loose pieces should be refastened or replaced if the wood is badly damaged from splits or rot.
All decks should have metal or plastic flashing running along the length of the ledger board and in other sensitive areas where moisture and debris can collect between the deck and your home. Check to ensure flashing remains firmly in place and that water isn’t collecting anywhere it shouldn’t.
Ensure all nails and deck tension hardware (structural screws, bolts, or tension ties) on the ledger board are tightly in place. Replace fasteners showing signs of major rust or corrosion.
If your deck has an electrical outlet, it should have a waterproof cover. In addition, if your deck is 20 square feet or longer, you’ll need to add an electrical receptacle, according to a rule passed by the National Electric Code in 2008.
A good sealant or paint finish is your deck’s first line of defense against sun and water damage. A quick check for any peeling or worn down spots will reveal if the surface is in need of touch ups or to be completely refinished. You should also inspect for any nails or screws that have popped up on the decking and retighten as needed.
Many times an annual inspection of your deck should be a quick and painless practice that ensures you have a safe space to enjoy the outdoors. If you do come across an issue, addressing it promptly will save you trouble down the road.
Do you live in the Central Oregon area? Webfoot Painting’s professionally trained deck team would be happy to meet your decking needs. Our services include:
Contact us today to schedule an appointment.