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Is Your Deck Safe?

cedar deckAfter a winter’s worth of cold and rainy weather, your deck could probably use a little TLC. If you’re like many homeowners and you purchased a house with a deck already attached, you may not have a clear idea how old it is or how it was constructed. With around 40 million decks in the United States that are more than 20 years old, it’s important to stay on top of making sure your deck is structurally sound.

As you begin sprucing up your backyard for the coming spring, include a deck inspection to look for any safety issues or needed repairs. Here’s a checklist from the North American Deck and Railing Association to help ensure your deck remains barefoot-friendly and accident-free:

  • Check your wood deck for popped nails, or places where the nail head is sticking out above the surface of the wood. These can be tripped over or scratch the bottoms of bare feet. Pound them back into the wood or replace them with deck screws.
  • Examine several different areas of your deck to make sure the wood is not split or decaying. Make sure to include the ledger board (where the deck attaches to your house, a common source of deck failure), support posts and joists beneath the deck (if you can reach them), deck boards, railings and stairs.
  • Carefully examine any areas that are regularly exposed to water or tend to remain damp. If the wood is soft and spongy, if you can penetrate it with a screwdriver up to 1/4 or 1/2 inch, or if you can break off a sliver without splinters, it may be decaying.
  • Check for small holes in the wood, which may indicate the presence of insects.
  • Look for boards that are badly cracked or warped–these should be replaced with new boards of the same type.
  • Push on all railings to make sure they are secure, paying special attention the handrails for all stairs. If you haven’t before, make sure your deck railings are up to code. They should stand at least 36-42 inches high and be spaced no more than 4 inches apart (measured from the inside of the rails).
  • Make sure stairs are even, without sagging, and do not move or sway when tested.

Once your deck is in top shape again, keep it protected from the elements with regular deck stain and maintenance regimen. Or if you’re looking to replace an older deck and want to know how to alleviate many of the maintenance problems associated with wood decking, read up on the benefits of composite decking.

For more information on deck safety, visit the North American Deck and Railing Association website.

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