Building a deck seems like very straight forward project. Everyone has used decks and in most cases, there are a limited number of building materials to choose from.
The truth is building a deck is not as simple as it seems because it still requires using proven building techniques and the knowledge to do them correctly.
The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) says new and replacement decks amount to about 2.5 million new structures annually in the United States. Unfortunately, many of these are done by inexperienced homeowners, friends or in some cases contractors not following the appropriate guidelines.
Your Deck Is An Accident Waiting To Happen
Poor construction can very easily result in property damage and even in injury to people on the deck at the time of failure or collapse. In fact, according to the NADRA, since 2000, there have been at least 30 reported deaths from collapse.
More than 75 percent of people involved in a collapse were injured. Most collapses occur on decks more than 20 years of age or older. Performing an annual safety check is suggested If your deck is fifteen years old or older.
In the Madison WI area, many collapses occur because of ledger board issues. Nails are often the problem because they do not perform as well as bolts. The nails simply pull out. Unfortunately, nails are easier to use and are the favorite choice of weekend carpenters, but they can be the source of problems.
U.S. Forest Products Laboratory Deck Research
Our experience reflects a problem occurring nationally. The U. S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, studied five years of newspaper articles on collapses from around the country while researching a deck-building manual. The research showed “nearly every collapsed deck had been attached with nails, rather than bolts and investigators had pinpointed nails as the cause of the collapse.”
Inspections – International Code Council
Highlighting other common problems, the International Code Council (ICC) suggests looking for the following when inspecting decks, balconies, or porches:
- Ledger boards affixed to homes incorrectly – Screwed to house
- Incorrectly sized lumber
- Wrong joist hangers
- No nails through joist hangers
- Footings not poured
- Footings poured incorrectly
- Split or rotting wood
- Loose or missing nails, screws, or anchors where the structure is attached to the building
- Missing, damaged, or loose support beams and planking
- Wobbly handrails or guardrails
If you are a homeowner looking to build, expand or replace a deck to be affixed to your home, it’s important to be sure your project is done right. Whether you are doing it yourself or you are hiring a contractor for the project, be sure to avoid the following mistakes.
Top 10 Deck Building Mistakes
- Not obtaining a permit – Safety is the main focus of following the permitting process. Obtaining a permit is the most overlooked step in deck building.
- Improper or missing flashing – water management is an important consideration with every deck. Water can soak into your home at the point where the deck connects to the house. Properly installed flashing will prevent erosion to the structural integrity of your deck and home.
- Improper attachment to structure of house (incorrect fasteners) – How your deck attaches to your home determines its safety and durability. This is an area that you may want to overbuild beyond the minimum standards or requirements. Material, size, and quality are critical.
- Undersized footings – Undersized footings can lead to sagging, warping or collapse. Footings create a solid base for the posts of your deck.
- Improper materials – Weather resistant materials are necessary on exterior structures to prevent rot or deterioration. There are specific fasteners for exterior conditions and it is critical that the proper fasteners are used. Select the materials specifically made to withstand the elements.
- Missing or improper joist hangers – Joist hangers are an essential element in creating reinforced connections and supported decking. Nails alone are not enough to counteract the shear forces on a structural member. Ensure the safety of your deck by using properly sized, engineered, and correctly installed joist hangers.
- Undersized structural members – An undersized structural member increases the risk of deck collapse and can create sagging and improper weight distribution. Avoid warping and collapsing by properly sizing all members and components.
- Improper railing height and baluster spacing – railings and balusters help to avoid accidents and injuries. Local building codes provide the guidance needed for measurements.
- Stairs with open risers or missing railings – Avoid injuries and create a tailored look by covering the risers. Open space between steps invites accidents. Hand railings are fundamental to the safety of a stairwell.
- Unsealed wood – Unsealed wood can age and deteriorate faster than sealed wood. Proper sealing prolongs the appearance and life of a deck well beyond unsealed decks. Avoid the “worn out” look by sealing it.
In Madison, a well-designed deck can one of the most used “rooms” in your home in warmer weather. It can add an entirely new dimension to your home and your family’s enjoyment of your home and yard. Our goal is to be sure it’s safe for everyone.
For the safest, most functional deck for you home, call or email Sims Remodeling – 608-825-4500. Have a great summer with the best possible deck design and your choice of decking materials – Call Sims Remodeling.