Deck Inspection Made Easy
1. The Ledger
It is very important to Inspect your Deck on a yearly basis. The typical life span of an outdoor deck is 15-20 years. I have seen decks that are older than this simply because the owner took the time to preform proper maintenance. Annual inspections will protect your investment, and more importantly your family. Every year, people are severely injured, or even killed, in Deck collapses.
The good news is Injuries can easily be prevented by routine yearly Inspections and maintenance. Most repairs are quick, inexpensive and easy. Many of your local lumberyards carry the tools and materials you’ll need.
1.The Ledger Board
The Ledger board is up against the house. It is crucial that this board is secured and in good repair. A poorly secured ledger board can fail resulting in your deck separating from your house and falling to the ground. Most of the ledger boards I inspect are not properly secured to the house. To be secured properly the ledger board needs 1/2in X 3in Lag screws or bolts driven every 16 in.
Starting at one end of the ledger board install two Lag screws or bolts, one towards the top and the other towards the bottom. I like to offset my lags or bolts. Then move down 16 in and repeat.
2. Joist Inspection
How are the joists attached to the rest of your frame? They should have Joist hangers that are designed to support the load of the floor. Some of the decks I inspect don’t have any hangers. If this is the case install new ones. Inspect your hangers making sure all holes are filled with nails. Often times deck contractors will place one nail to hold the hanger in place and forget to go back later and secure it properly. Be careful to use the right nails. Joist hanger nails are the only nails acceptable, specifically designed for this application.
Deck Posts are under continuous pressure. Often times they are exposed to the elements and if in contact with the ground will eventually rot. Replacing a rotting post may seem like a daunting task, but can be achieved with a little bit of sweat equity.
Start by making some temporary bracing. I like to use 2x6s nailed together. Set your bottle jacks with in 3 ft. of either side of the post you are replacing. Make sure you are on solid even ground. I recommend cutting a 2’X2’ piece of plywood to ensure a sturdy base. Next, use your 2×6 bracing. Place one end on the jack and the other end on the rim joist. Slowly jack the brace up until it is tight, we don’t want to raise the deck. Repeat for the second brace and your ready to remove the rotten post and replace.
Walk the deck to ensure none of the deck boards are damaged or showing signs of rotting. If damage is seen replace as needed. Deck boards are typically nailed or screwed down. Determine how your deck is fastened and remove the rotten board. Cut the new board to size and secure it to the joists.
Most of the decks Inspect have loose railings. Though this wont cause your deck fail, it could cause you or someone you love to fall off. Railing posts should be attached to the deck frame with carriage bolts. Determine the width of the post and rim joist and add 1 in to the length of your carriage bolt. These bolts should be ½ in in diameter. Drill two ½ in. holes through the post and rim joists. Stagger these holes for a stronger hold. Drive the carriage bolts through and tighten until flush.
Inspect the spindles to ensure tightness. If a loose or damaged spindle is found simply remove and replace. Most spindles are and sold at your local hardware store for ease of installation. Determine if they are nailed or screwed and replace as needed.
As you can see Inspecting your Deck can be done quicly. There are not a lot of structural components, and often times they are easily accessible. Take an afternoon to look at your own Deck. If you see any problem areas address them to ensure a longer life to your investment.