Your deck is exposed to the elements 24/7. When maintained correctly, it can stand strong for years to come. But if it’s ignored, it can quickly break down and become a danger to you and your family. Before you wreck your deck, get outside and perform these five checks.
CHECK FOR ROT.
Using a screwdriver, gently poke around wooden areas of your deck. Look for signs of deterioration, paying close attention to any part of the deck that makes contact with the ground. If the wood feels soft, you may have rot. Small areas of rot can be chiseled out and treated, but more extensive infections will mean replacing the entire board or small sections of your deck. Rot can spread quickly, so be diligent about checking for rot and promptly fixing any problem you find.
CHECK THE LEDGER.
The most critical piece of your deck to pay attention to is the ledger board. The ledger board is the piece that connects the deck to your home, and if this one small piece of hardware fails, it can spell bad news. Ledger boards should never be connected to the house by nails. You need the proper bolts and structural screws. Make sure your ledger is still attached correctly and has not become loose or wobbly.
CHECK JOINTS & BEAMS.
Check all the joints and beams on your deck for rot, along with any connecting hardware for rust and erosion. Maintaining the integrity of these pieces is essential for the structure of your deck. Removing them for replacement can be tricky and will likely require temporary reinforcements. If you’re unsure how to do it, contact a licensed contractor to get the job done right.
CHECK FOR CRACKS.
Give your deck a thorough wash before your first summer party and look for cracks and other surface problems. While these cracks can be an eyesore, they usually aren’t structural. You can replace boards as needed, but know they may stick out against the older ones. Applying a fresh stain to your deck every two to three years should limit cracks and keep your deck looking fresh.
CHECK THE RAILING & STAIRS.
Test your railings and stairs before your family and guests come over and start leaning on them. Loose posts can be annoying at best and dangerous at worst. Test them all and tighten the ones that are loose using stainless steel bolts and screws.
Deck maintenance is crucial to ensuring a safe outdoor experience for you and the people you care about. While many of these checks can be made by a novice, if you aren’t sure how to correctly spot the signs of wear and tear, or if your deck is more than five years old, hire a licensed inspector.
Have a Safer Summer
For even more summer safety tips, check out our recent article, “Hot Tips for a Safe Summer at Home.” In it, you’ll find six ways to keep your home base secure, so you can safely enjoy everything the season has to offer.