If the safety of your fence starts at the hole, your deck safety starts at the ledger board. Don’t get us wrong – it’s also important to have a deep, secure footing for your deck. However, in our experience providing top-notch custom fencing and decking across Oregon and Washington, we’ve seen that the most common cedar decking construction problem is a poor connection between the home and the cedar deck. This area is called the ledger board. A well-constructed ledger board is a crucial ingredient for any long-lasting cedar decking.
Salem residents may recall the tragic deck collapse that occurred in Lyons, Ore., in 1999. The wood deck in Lyons (located about 25 miles southeast of Salem) was packed with wedding guests at the time of the collapse. The wedding party had gathered for a commemorative photograph when the wood deck gave way, killing one woman. The daughter of the bride remembered the scene this way: “By the time I turned around, the deck was gone. I saw some legs flying, but the rest of the people were already down.” Twenty-three others were injured. At the time of the collapse, the deck was just five years old and had just passed a safety inspection. Although we haven’t seen a complete report on why this deck collapsed, we’re guessing it was due to a faulty ledger connection, as with most major deck collapses.
There are a couple of ways a cedar deck’s ledger commonly fails:
1. Fasteners come loose. Uneducated cedar decking contractors may use nails or inadequate screws to attach the ledger to the decking. Nails will pull out over time, and unless the screws are long enough, they will also slowly fail.
2. Fasteners aren’t screwed into a strong surface. Careless cedar deck builders may attempt to fasten the deck to fiberboard wall sheathing or other weak surfaces. In order to hold the weight of the deck and its visitors, it’s important to fasten the ledger to the rim joists.
To protect your family and guests from a deck collapse, ensure that these three common ledger pitfalls are not present in your design. To be especially safe, work with an experienced, professional builder of cedar decking. Salem, Portland, Hillsboro, Tri-Cities and Vancouver homeowners can depend on Rick’s Custom Fencing & Decking to build a strong, long-lasting, collapse-free deck. If you’re outside of these areas, we recommend thoroughly researching the background and experience of any decking contractor before entrusting them with your next decking project.