A deck is a wonderful place to unwind and entertain. Follow these tips to make sure your outdoor space is safe and fun.
Inspect the elements of your deck annually:
Before beginning work, check to see if any building codes apply to your work and if permits or inspections are required. If you can't access parts of your deck or don't feel comfortable doing the inspection yourself, contact a professional deck builder. The steps below describe some basic areas of inspection. For a complete check of your deck, have it inspected by a professional.
You may be able to make minor repairs — tightening fasteners or replacing decking and railing — yourself. If you need work on structural components — such as joists, beams, posts, footings or a ledger board, consider contacting a professional.
If the deck is connected to the house, make sure the ledger board is securely attached to the house with lag bolts. Check any flashing that covers the area to make sure it's secure and undamaged. Replace it if necessary.
Check the joist hangers, which hold the joists in place. Every hole should have a joist hanger nail securing the hanger to the deck frame. If you need to add nails, use joist hanger nails.
Ensure deck posts are not sinking or loose. Check the soundness of the post footings.
Inspect several locations for rotten wood. Give particular attention to parts of the deck that are regularly damp and areas around fasteners. If the wood is soft, breaks easily without splinters or if you can easily push a screwdriver 1/4 to 1/2 inch into the wood, there may be rot. Pay attention to soft spots as you walk across the deck. These may also indicate decay. Even a deck built with composite material, which resists rot, has structural elements which are made of wood. If you find rot, replace the component.
Look for cracks and splits. Cracks around fasteners and in decking between joists are of particular concern. Also pay attention to cracks that grow larger over time. Replace any damaged components that you find.
Check for insect damage. Wood and composite materials used in decks are typically resistant to insects, but the areas of the house that connect to the deck may not be.
Secure any loose fasteners. If you notice nails that have worked out, replace them with deck screws. Replace any damaged hardware. Check fasteners and hardware for rust and corrosion, which can weaken the wood. Replace them as needed.
Removing fasteners and hardware from a structural component may make the deck unsound. Consider consulting a professional to replace them.
Inspect railings around the deck and along the stairs to make sure they are sound and sturdy. They must be firmly attached to the deck frame and easy to grip. Make sure the balusters — the vertical pieces — are the proper distance apart to prevent children or pets from getting stuck between them. Refer to your local building codes for specifics.
Check to see that decking and stair treads are solid — they shouldn't sag or shift. Make sure all the boards are in good condition, solidly attached and not slippery. Apply non-slip stair tread strips to increase traction. Secure loose boards or treads and replace any that are damaged.