Deck Safety Checklist: 9 Things to Look For

Statistics show that more decks collapse in the summer than during the rest of the year combined. We even hear about in the local news sometimes, like the above photo of a deck collapse in Lucketts.  So with BBQ season right around the corner, now’s the time to take a closer look at the place where you’ll host all your warm weather gatherings.  Homeowners should inspect their decks often and should also consider a deck safety - pinterestyearly professional deck safety inspection in order to make sure their deck is safe for family, friends, and special events such as birthday parties, weddings, deck parties, graduations, and more.

Almost every deck collapse occurred while the decks were occupied or under a heavy snow load.  Between the year 2000 and today, there were at least 30 reported deaths from deck collapse.  More than 75 percent of people on a collapsing deck were injured. Most collapses occur on decks that are more than 15 years of age or older.  With over 40 million decks in the United States it is important that you check the safety of your deck yearly.

Hazards to look for:

With the changes in decking material, building products, hardware, and building methods, safety is a growing concern. There are thousands of decks that were built before these requirements were applicable.  There are also decks, deck railing, and related structures that were built without the benefit of permit or safety inspection.  Just because it was “grandfathered in”, doesn’t make it safe.  Far too often, these problems are discovered after a tragedy occurs.


Split warped decaying wood

1.Split, warped, or decaying wood

Check various areas of the deck including the ledger board, where the deck attaches to the house, as well as the support posts.  Using a tool like a screwdriver, poke into the wood surface.  If you can easily penetrate the wood, if the wood is soft or spongy, or if a sliver breaks off without splinters, you may have some rotted wood.


Improperly built beams

2. Improperly built beams

Another building practice that can negatively affect the integrity of your deck is having your beams bolted to the side of your posts.  By placing the entire weight on bolts or screws, if they rust or fail, the deck could collapse.  The proper way is to position the post directly under a beam and secure it with a galvanized post-to-beam connector.


Bad Ledger Attachment

3. Bad ledger attachment

It is important to make sure that your ledger is bolted directly to a solid structural member, the band board, of the house, not just the sheathing.  If there is no band board, the alternative is a free-standing deck.  If the deck is attached to the house without using one of these methods, this can result in disaster.


Support Columns 12yo deck

4. Incorrect joist hangers or nails

One of the problems with joist hangers is, many times, the wrong nails are used.  Joist hanger nails are heavy duty nails, designed to prevent shearing, with a special galvanized coating that’s designed to resist rust and corrosion from chemicals found in modern-day treated lumber.  Other nails, such as roofing nails, do not have the inherent strength to support the weight of a deck because not only are the shafts of roofing nails too small, but the heads of the nails can also easily pop off.


Loose Worn Corroded Hardware

5. Loose, worn, or corroded hardware and fasteners

Loose, worn, or corroding hardware can make the deck susceptible to collapse.  The damage is often internal so if your fasteners are visibly corroded, there may be a problem with structural integrity.  There is a natural reaction between the zinc in the fasteners and the copper in the treated lumber.  Over time, this can cause structural failure.  Therefore, if your deck is more than 15 years old, a safety inspection is highly recommended.


Improper No Footers

6. Improper or no footers

It is difficult to show a picture of improper footers since they are generally on a cement block underground.  Since the only way to inspect footer condition properly is to dig around the support columns, the recommendation is to have a professional come out and perform a safety inspection.


Improperly Built Stairs

7. Improperly built stairs

According to most local standards, closed risers and graspable handrails are necessary to complete a safe stair package.  Open risers can create a tripping hazard and are unsafe especially for children.  The stair stringers should be properly attached at the top and bottom to prevent separation and/or collapse.  There are many things that can go wrong with deck stairs that are not noticeable by an untrained eye.  If your stairs bounce or move, a safety inspection by a professional is necessary.

Improper Railing Height and Balusters (1)

8. Improper railing height and baluster spacing

Building codes have very specific measurements, which vary by area, for railings and balusters in order to avoid accidents and injuries.  Railing requirements are usually between 34″ to 38″ high and baluster spacing to be less than 4″ apart.  Improper railing heights or baluster spacing can result in safety hazards, such as falls or even a child getting his or her head stuck between the balusters.


Missing or Improper Flashing

9. Missing or improper flashing

The flashing is a “Z-shaped” piece of plastic that keeps water and moisture from running off the deck and into your house. If the flashing is missing or improperly installed, you may end up with water damage or mold inside the floors or walls of your home. Water may also build up along your deck where it meets your home, causing the joists to rot.


According to The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), everyone should have an annual deck inspection.  An experienced reputable deck repair company can perform a full safety inspection of your existing structure and provide you with a detailed list of all problems and suggested solutions.

Loudoun Deck Repair
525-K E Market St #188
Leesburg, VA 20176 | (571) 707-4019 |

Design, Build, Restore, Repair.  Loudoun Deck Repair is the premier deck repair and design company in the state of Virginia.  Loudoun Deck Repair also specializes in screened in porches, pergolas, gazebos, and more.  We will help you create your ideal outdoor space.

Keith Bohlayer Loudoun Deck Repair

About Keith Bohlayer Loudoun Deck Repair

Owner | | Keith Bohlayer, owner of Loudoun Deck Repair, has over 30 years of all phases of construction experience. He is an expert in the principles and practices of both commercial and residential construction and remodeling. Keith and his company specialize in the design and construction of outdoor structures such as decks, porches, porticos, gazebos, and more with a focus on safety and compliance.