According to InterNACHI, of the two million decks that are built in the United States every year, less than half are actually safe. Not all result in failures, but many do. Every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 6,000 people are injured through deck failures in the United States every day. That is fairly common, and common enough that you should be concerned about whether or not your deck has made safely and if it will fail. Below we’ll give you some essential information you need to assess your risk.
What Causes Deck Failures?
Deck failures are most commonly caused by improper installation of either the deck or the railing. Common errors that can result in serious failures include:
- Inadequate fasteners: Decks need to be fastened in the right spots and also enough.
- Missing flashing: Decks need flashing where they join with your home to protect them from water.
- Not square: Of course, the supports, deck and railing all need to be square.
- Improper materials: Certain materials do not mix well together or are not strong enough for decks of certain sizes.
- Lack of railing: Without railings, people can get serious injured on decks, which counts as a “deck failure” in the statistics.
- Railing problems: If the railing is joined to the deck improperly or is otherwise poorly designed it can cause deck failure.
How Do I Know If My Deck is Safe?
As a homeowner, it’s unlikely you feel confident inspecting your deck by yourself. There are many intricacies of deck building that you may not know. You deserve to have real peace of mind that the deck you’re standing on is actually safe and secure. We suggest that you get it and its railing professionally inspected—and not by the company that installed them. A third party will be more honest.
Is it worthwhile for you to get your deck inspected? There are some situations where we recommend getting a deck inspected for sure, including:
- You didn’t get the deck installed yourself and you don’t know who built it
- The deck is old, the paint is chipped, elements are rusted etc.
- The railing is sagging, warped, or bent
- The deck does not seem level, or it shifts or squeaks
- The deck or railing has other damage
Learn more about the signs of a failing deck »
Getting a New Deck or Deck Railing
When you’re getting a new deck or a deck railing, you want to make sure that the professionals behind the project are going to do their job to ensure your deck is stable. How can you assess if they are likely to do a good job? Here are some tips:
- Look at old decks: If the company has been in business for ten years, they should be able to show you a deck they did ten years ago. Is it in good shape?
- Ask old customers: Ask the company for references from customers they served many years ago. Has the deck or railing needed repair in that time?