30 Mar 2023

Deck Failure: Why Ignoring This Home Hazard Could Cost You More Than You Think

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According to the most recent data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were an estimated 15,700 injuries associated with decks, porches, and balconies in 2018. The majority of these injuries were caused by falls from a height, with the remaining injuries resulting from contact with sharp objects, electrical shock, and structural collapse. Over the same period, there were an estimated 4,000 deck failures resulting in collapse or partial collapse. Of these failures, approximately 2,000 were due to improper construction and 2,000 were due to corrosion or other material deficiencies.

As a home inspector, we’ve seen our fair share of deck failures over the years. While these types of incidents may seem like rare occurrences, they’re more common than you might think. That’s why it’s crucial for homeowners to prioritize deck maintenance and make sure their outdoor living spaces are safe for everyone to enjoy.

Deck failures can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common causes is poor maintenance. Decks are exposed to the elements year-round, and if they’re not properly maintained, they can quickly deteriorate. Moisture, sunlight, and extreme temperatures can cause wood to warp, crack, and rot. Nails and screws can loosen over time, creating weak points that compromise the entire structure. And if your deck is built with inferior materials or shoddy workmanship, it’s only a matter of time before it fails.

So, what can you do to prevent deck failure?🤔The answer is simple: regular maintenance. Here are a few key steps you should take to keep your deck in top shape:

  1. Inspect your deck regularly: The first step in preventing deck failure is to inspect your deck regularly. Look for signs of rot, warping, cracking, or other damage. Pay attention to the areas around the ledger board (where the deck attaches to your house), as this is a common spot for problems to arise. If you notice any issues, address them right away.
  2. Clean your deck: Dirt, debris, and leaves can accumulate on your deck over time, which can lead to mold and mildew growth. Use a pressure washer or a stiff-bristled brush to remove any buildup and keep your deck clean.
  3. Seal your deck: Sealing your deck can help protect it from moisture, UV rays, and other damaging factors. You should apply a sealer every 2-3 years to keep your deck looking its best.
  4. Tighten loose screws and nails: Loose screws and nails can compromise the structural integrity of your deck. Inspect your deck regularly for any signs of looseness, and tighten any loose screws or nails you find.
  5. Hire a professional: If you’re not comfortable inspecting or maintaining your deck yourself, consider hiring a professional. A deck contractor or home inspector can identify potential problems and recommend the best course of action to keep your deck safe and secure.

Remember, the key to preventing deck failure is to take a proactive approach to maintenance. By inspecting your deck regularly, cleaning it, sealing it, and tightening loose screws and nails, you can help ensure that your outdoor living space is safe for everyone to enjoy. And if you’re not comfortable handling deck maintenance yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for help. Investing in deck maintenance now can save you a lot of headaches (and potentially a lot of money) down the road.


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