It’s summer time and families want to get out and enjoy the great outdoors on their decks. With the increased use of decks, does anyone take the time to ensure deck safety? The home owner figures if it looks solid, then it will hold up to weekly use. Recently, there has been news coverage on decks that didn’t meet proper standards for deck construction. This article is devoted to the discussion of decks which are attached to homes or townhouses.
One of the major causes of decks separating from the home is how it is attached. During deck and home inspections, I see a great deal of decks that are not connected to the home properly. The most common issue I find is the deck attached to the home utilizing nails hammered into the ledger board. This particular mechanism of attachment is not only incorrect, but also very unsafe. Nails are not designed to hold the weight of the deck; no matter how many nails are used.
The proper form of attaching the deck to the home is by using 1/2″ lag screws with washers or through bolts. Spacing of the bolts should be every 16 inches and alternating one bolt in the top third of the ledger board and the second bolt through the bottom third of the board. Be careful here, do not install a bolt within 2 – 3 inches of the top or bottom of board.
In addition to the through bolts, flashing should be installed behind the ledger board, which then goes on top of the deck board, then underneath the first row of house siding. The flashing will also have a drip edge on the bottom of the flashing to keep water away from the ledger board.
Support posts for are also an area that goes unnoticed when decks are being used. Make sure the support post does not have contact with the ground; even with treated wood. The damp ground can decay a support post below the surface without any sign of decomposition to the eye. Support posts should be mounted on concrete footings for post to concrete, utilizing Simpson Strong Ties.
These are but a few things I see during inspections that are commonly out there. To be safe, you should have your deck inspected by a qualified inspector or Authority Having Jurisdiction to ensure your deck is safe. Decks are great way to entertain and if they are properly supported, the deck can continue to be used with Peace of Mind.