Unfortunately, many decks in California aren’t safe. Your deck may not have been up to code when it was installed or, over time, it may have succumbed to wear-and-tear or the environment and become unsafe. Here are deck red flags that you should look for to know if your deck is no longer safe.

How Long Should a Deck Last?

According to Soto Bay Construction, most decks will last 10-30 years, and the average length of time is 15 years. Actual lifespan depends on how it was built, how you use it, how often it’s been treated, the foundation, and so on.

1. Rotted Wood

Any rotted wood will make your deck unstable. However, wood is more likely to rot near the ground, in the support structure of the deck, where you are also less likely to see it. Take a look along the bottom of your deck for signs of wood rot.

2. Mold, Moss and Algae

Mold, moss and algae growth can be a sign of rotted wood. Or, they can simply be safety hazards themselves, increasing the odds that someone trips and falls on your deck. When you remove these growths, take a good look at the condition of the materials beneath them to ensure there is not rot or permanent damage.

3. Weak Ledger Support

The deck ledgers are the supports that connect it to the house. This is a very critical support that deck builders often overlook. The deck ledgers should extend into the house, connecting to the floor supports. However, some people simply drill the ledgers into the masonry or stone on the exterior of the building. This violates many building codes and means the deck will slowly pull away from the home, becoming unsafe overtime.

4. Moving Rails, Boards

Even if you can’t tell how well the deck is supported, you can often feel something is amiss if the railing, floorboards or other parts of the deck move when you step on them or put pressure on them. Your railing should not give and shouldn’t sag or bend. All of the rails should be unbroken. The floorboards may squeak, but they should not give or come loose.

5. Uneven Steps

When you’re walking up and down your deck stairs, do you have to adjust for inconsistently sized risers? You may have gotten used to large differences in step sizes, but your guests likely have not. Stair steps that are different in size by more than 3/8 an inch areagainst code and could create a tripping hazard. It is common on decks for the first step to have a shorter riser than the others, due to a common carpentry error. You can measure the step’s risers to be sure.

6. Above-Ground Piers

Piers are the large concrete or plastic feet that are supposed to be attached to the bottom of your deck’s legs, part of its foundation. You should not be able to see the piers. Even in areas of California where the ground doesn’t freeze, piers need to be buried in the ground to provide stability. Foundation blocks must also be set into the ground, by at least 12 inches.

Does your deck need a safety upgrade? We can help with railings that will actually last longer than the deck!