No matter how well your deck is engineered, no one can fully predict the actual events that compromise safety. That's why we recommend that everyone should inspect their decks, porches, and railings every spring and fall to prevent deck failures.
Even the best structures are tested by unexpected weather conditions or weight load. Timbers shrink and settle. Deck-to- railing connections can loosen. Deck railings, in particular, change under stress from planters, furniture, and people who sit or lean on them. The attachments between deck railings and the deck band board are particularly vulnerable.
Luckily, a do-it-yourself safety inspection can start with eight questions. The illustrations of unsafe conditions below will help you identify problems.
Eight Deck and Railing Safety Pointers
|1. Do handrails along the stairs feel completely stable? Check every section. Loose rail mounts or crumbling cement can destablize railings.|
|2. Are the height and length of the stair handrails appropriate? Are stairways fully lined by handrails? Missing stair railings create safety issues.|
|3. Is the guardrail high enough to provide adequate protection? Does it meet local building code? The deck railing at right is not code compliant.|
|4. Are vertical supports missing altogether? This railing does not meet code and is unsafe, particularly for children and pets.|
|5. Are any vertical supports 4" or more apart? This is particularly important if children or pets use the area.|
|6. Do you find splinters, buckled boards, uneven stair treads, loose boards, popped nails, or discolored areas? This can be a symptom of deeper problems.|
|7. Is the deck band board in good condition? According to some experts, a weak band board is the source of the worst deck failures.|
|8. Is nighttime stairway lighting adequate? Even if the deck is in great shape, people need adequate lighting at night.|
Maintenance Pays Off
If any of these points does not meet your satisfaction, it's in your best interest to pay attention. Whether you engage the services of a building inspector, hire a professional contractor, or decide to do repairs on your own, resolve your questions before summer. Your reward is not only a safe structure, but lower overall costs for the life of the deck or porch. Annual maintenance is usually far more economical than total replacement.
Penn Fencing offers cost effective maintenance items, in addition to our full service deck installation services.
If the deck surface is becoming worn, vinyl deck covering can extend the life of deck boards and make them more attractive.
If railings need repair, replace them with a railing kit. Another approach to improve railings is vinyl post covers. Penn Fencing's railing kits and post covers arrive with complete instructions and warranty as well as telephone and e-mail support.
For lighting, we offer solar post caps as well as low voltage lighting to improve visibility on decks, porches, and stairways.
Keep the good times rolling this spring, summer and fall. But first do a preventative inspection now on your deck, railings, and porch. And let the parties begin.
Qualified Professionals at Penn Fence
Our staff routinely participates in continuing education. Our deck Installation Manager, Neal Jackson, recently completed the "Residential Decks - Design, Construction and Inspection" Training Program held by the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center.