Kids love outdoor living areas. On decks and balconies, they can explore the great outdoors while staying within the protective observation of their parents. However, decking can pose its own safety risks for kids. To keep your kids safe, include the following features in your new deck design, or add them to an existing deck.
Check gap sizes. Gaps on handrails should be 3.5 inches or narrower; anything wider is liable to offer an enticing place for tiny heads, hands and legs to get stuck. Check the gaps between vertical slats on wood handrails as well as the gap between your deck surface and the bottom section of each handrail.
Many parents find they can avoid some of the difficulties of wood handrails altogether by opting for glass handrails instead. (Of course, the gap between the deck and the bottom of the glass handrails must still be checked.) Glass handrails offer the additional benefit of preserving enticing views beyond your decking. Alternatively, you can install deck netting, “banister guard” or “balcony shield,” available at home improvement stores. Be sure to block any horizontally oriented railings; these can look like ladder rungs to the innocent babe.
Add slip guards on steps. This will prevent both you and your children from slipping in inclement weather.
Repair or block cracks and gaps. Any gaps or checks in your decking surface should be repaired as soon as possible. If you are unable to repair cracks or gaps immediately, create some sort of barrier to prevent children from gaining access.
Sweep away slippery debris. Leaves and other organic material can be quite slippery, especially in wet conditions. Sweep your deck surface regularly to prevent nasty falls.
Install a child gate at the steps. If your deck is elevated above the earth and you have a small child, it is best to install a gate at the steps. That way your child can’t slip out of your view and fall off the steps or deck. (Again, wood handrails or glass handrails should be installed for elevated decks. A fall of just a foot can be quite serious for a toddler.)
Put alarms on sliding doors. Toddlers may be capable of opening sliding doors; if so, they can let themselves onto balconies or decking and potentially fall. If you can’t afford to put up narrow handrails or other barriers, it’s wise to install an alarm on any sliding doors. Such alarms typically make a buzzing noise whenever the doors are open.
Regularly check overall deck safety. Tragic deck collapses happen every year. To ensure your deck surface is solid, arrange an annual deck safety inspection.
With the other safety features listed above, your decking area will be a much safer place for your entire family to enjoy.