The Today Show had a segment recently where they asked a nationally known company to demonstrate a deck collapse in an effort to educate the public about deck safety. During the Fall and Winter months, decks go unused yet see a lot of activity from rain and other natural elements. When Spring arrive and the sun comes out, people get out on their decks again without any thought about how the elements may have affected the important connections on their deck. In addition to the weather, there are other factors to consider about deck safety:
• The average life expectancy of a wood deck is 10 to 15 years.
• There are millions of decks in the U.S. that are beyond their useful life and may be unsafe.
• The number of deck collapses is increasing.
• In just the past five years over 600 serious injuries and numerous deaths have occurred due to deck collapse.
The following information is from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors’ website in an article entitled, “Deck Inspections, Illustrated (How to Inspect a Deck)”
• More than two million decks are built and replaced each year in North America.
• INACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) estimates that of the 45 million existing decks, only 40% are completely safe.
• A deck must be designed to support the weight of people, snow loads, and objects.
• Rail failure occurs much more frequently than total deck collapses; however, because rail failures are less dramatic than total collapses and normally don’t result in death, injuries from rail failures are rarely reported.
• Almost every deck collapse occurred while the decks were occupied or under a heavy snow load.
• About 90% of deck collapses occurred as a result of the separation of the house and the deck ledger board, allowing the deck to swing away from the house. It is very rare for deck floor joists to break mid-span.
• Many more injuries are the result of rail failure, rather than complete deck collapse.
So, while you are thinking about deck safety we thought we’d share with you the “5 Warning Signs of an Unsafe Deck” we discussed on the Today Show:
1. Loose Connections. Wobbly railings or loose stairs are common on a deck, especially one that was built a few years ago. It’s important that you address these areas and make sure they’re properly secured. Decks age as they go through different seasons and the associated issues require annual inspection.
2. Missing Connections. Often loose connections mean missing connections. If a deck is off the ground – you want to go underneath it and make sure you have the proper hardware. Often a deck is held together with only nails. Toe-nailed connections can pull out – metal connectors are much stronger and can provide more load capacity. If connectors or fasteners are missing on a deck, you want to add them.
3. Corrosion. As mentioned earlier, a deck is exposed to weather and other outdoor conditions every day, which can cause the hardware on a deck to corrode or rust. If you see signs of red rust, you may need to replace the metal connectors or fasteners. Not all rust is bad – for instance white rust generally does not mean that the steel is corroding. To address corrosion issues when re-building or retrofitting a deck, you should use connectors that are coated for outdoor conditions.
4. Rotted Wood. Over time, wood can rot and weaken your deck. To test wood on a deck, stick a screw driver in the area of wood that you think is rotted. If it appears soft, it should be replaced immediately. Remember, the life expectancy of a wood deck is only about 10 to 15 years.
5. Cracked Wood If you see large cracks in any wood members, you should replace them.
If you have been injured as a result of a construction related defect your next call should be to the Law Office of Guenard & Bozarth. Guenard & Bozarth has successfully represented many victims of deck collapses due to the negligent acts, omissions, design & construction of decks. Call us at 888-809-1075 or visit http://www.gblegal.com and speak to an attorney today who can help to evaluate your case and get you the help you need. We Can Help!