If you have a deck, May is an ideal month to consider its safety. It’s not just because the North American Deck and Railing Association observes Deck Safety Month in May. Before the summer season really gets going and you start spending more time on your deck, it is wise to check up on its safety. Particularly if your deck was installed years ago, it might not be up to building code. You should work your way through our checklist to make sure that your deck is still safe to use.

Deck Safety Checklist

Here are the things you should check for when assessing the safety of your deck:

  • Railing security: Check to make sure that the deck’s railing is secure. The posts shouldn’t wobble when you put weight on it or press it. The rails should not sag and should not appear warped.
  • Fasteners: Your deck will have several fasteners, including nails and screws. Check to make sure that all screws are tightened, all nails are properly driven, and that none are rusted.
  • Flashing: Between the house and your deck, you should have a ledger board with flashing. Leaves, grass clippings and other debris often gather here. Sweep it out to protect the deck from decay.
  • Boards and stairs: Walk along the boards and stairs and pay attention to how they feel when you step on them. Do they sag or sway? Any boards or stairs that do so need to be replaced. Also, make sure the risers and strings are securely attached to the boards and stairs.
  • Splits or decay: While you’re inspecting every board, check to ensure that they are not split and have not decayed. Use a flat screwdriver to measure the depth of any splits in the wood. If you can insert it a quarter-inch deep, the board needs to be replaced. If you find a spongy section or a spot where the wood will break off without splintering, that board likely has decayed and needs to be replaced too.
  • Electrical: If your deck has any electrical components, look them over for signs of animal tampering or decay.
  • Lighting: Check to ensure lights work and replace any burnt-out bulbs. Adding more lighting is a great way to improve safety. It can prevent both trips and falls on the deck and theft in your house.
  • Trees: Any trees or bushes nearby the deck should be trimmed back so that they don’t touch the deck and are less likely to drop leaves on the deck.
  • Flammable objects: You should double-check that flammable objects from barbeques to firepits are far enough away from the deck to be safe. You can also check if they have other safety mechanisms built in to protect the deck.

Do I Need a Railing?

If your deck was built years ago, it may not meet building codes. If your deck doesn’t have a railing, it may need one now by current International Residential Code (IRC) standards. All decks that are higher than 30” above grade should have a deck railing for safety.