With the warm summer air now bringing great days to be outside our way, spending afternoons lounging on your porch, patio or deck are becoming more and more appealing. However, when was the last time you had your outside space inspected? Just as with your home, your porch or deck structures can degrade over time, and in many cases more quickly than your home as these external aspects of your property are constantly exposed to the elements.
The North American Deck and Railing Association notes that having an inspection can quite literally be a matter of life and death. It seems as though each year, there seems to be some accident or tragedy in the news relating to a deck collapse that injures several people. While these have often brought about positive changes in regulations to compel regular inspections and maintenance, being proactive yourself and having your deck inspected can help you prevent falls, injuries and even fatal accidents from worn or failing structures.
The most critical element of porch or desk structures is the connection points, where the deck connects into the home and is braced to hold the weight of both the structure itself and anyone or thing on it. NADRA notes that International Residential Code (IRC) requires that porches and decks should hold a minimum of 40 pounds per square foot and balconies should have 60 pounds per square foot capacity, each in addition to the weight of building materials and the deck itself. Over time, these connections can fail – especially with nailed-in structures, which offer less resistance from separation than screws or bolts – but having an inspector review your structure can help identify any concerns.
Railings are another common problem area for decks. While each municipality generally has their own requirements for height and spacing of railings, the way in which they are secured should afford 200 pounds of capacity, according to IRC. Improperly attached railings, particularly ones that aren’t solidly connected to the deck or porch structure, can be more susceptible to failure. Even a small failure can cause a person to slip or fall, potentially a significant distance if you have an elevated deck. Inspecting and correcting any problems now ensures a summertime of safe and enjoyable times outside.
Beyond construction failures, the elements can also lead to problems with decks. Below ground, anchor posts can crack or shift as the seasons change, with winter frost heaves having the potential to cause beams or posts to move from their original positions. This loss of stability can cause portions of your deck to fall lower than they were originally built, putting additional stress on your deck and leading to warping and distortion of boards over time. In addition, water from rain and snow melt can impact flashings where the porch or deck meets the side of your home. If your flashing has degraded, this water can seep in and cause rot, potentially damaging not only the wood that anchors the structure but potentially walls and subflooring within your home. An inspector can look for signs of weather-related problems and offer guidance on what the concerns with your structure are.
NADRA offers a great evaluation form to help an inspector identify specific areas of concern you may have with your home during an inspection appointment. For more information on deck inspections or to schedule a time to have your porch or deck reviewed, contact Accurate Home Inspections today.