May is Deck Safety Month! "CHECK YOUR DECK"
May is ‘Deck Safety Month’. Last month when clocks shifted to daylight savings time you changed out the batteries in your smoke detectors (right?) so this month it’s time to check – your – deck. Decks on the verge of falling down generally don’t look any different than safe decks. You have to take a close look in order to see if problems exist. And don’t take deck safety lightly; injuries sustained from a deck collapse can range from scrapes and bruises to loss of limb or life.
Your deck may seem solid and secure until one day it falls off the house. Deck collapses are more common than you may think. In early April, 5 people were injured in a New Jersey deck collapse. In mid-April another deck failure near Syracuse, NY hospitalized 5 and injured several others... and we'd guess that many near-tragedies go unreported.
This 15 year old deck (shown below) was inspected in March. From 30 ft. away it looked fine but when we got closer it was easy to see numerous deficiencies and outright negligent workmanship (see photos). The deck could hang on the house for another 15 years without failing – or it could fall down tomorrow. If the deck was 1 ft. or 2 ft. off the ground it would have been less of a concern but this one is about 10 ft. high. It’s amazing how many decks fail each year. According to NADRA (North American Deck & Railing Association), between 2000 and 2008, there were 30 reported deaths resulting from deck failures. And many thousands of people landed in emergency rooms due to deck, railing or deck stair failures annually.
The warm spring has many of us enjoying our decks earlier than usual. Before we get too deep into the spring and summer, take 30 minutes to inspect your deck.
For further information on conducting a deck inspection yourself, check out this interactive deck safety graphic.
There are dozens of individual inspection points on a deck and some aren’t easy to see. If you are concerned, have a contactor who specializes in decks do the inspection. Contractor members of NADRA generally follow a deck evaluation checklist developed by the organization. NADRAs consumer checklist describes both deck inspection points and general deck safety considerations.