Everyone loves to spend time on the deck with the family or entertaining. That’s why you bought a house with a deck or you built one yourself.
Decks are part of the American way of life, but they require upkeep as they are subjected to the elements all year long from hot summer months and cold, rainy or snowy winter months — and everything in between. Collapses happen regularly and people are injured because the owners failed to maintain their deck.
Here are the main things you should look for to reduce the chances of a collapse or other incident.
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It’s imperative that you check your boards annually. The weather changes from the hot summer months to cold and harsh winters (all of this varies by region, of course), which can lead to splintering. Splintering decks can cause cuts and scrapes, splinters and tripping hazards. Someone wearing flip-flops on the deck can sustain a nasty gash from a splintering board.
If you notice any splintering, you should remove the splinters and inspect to see if the entire board needs replacing.
As time marches on and the various weather conditions of the seasons take their toll on your deck, handrails can become less secure and wobbly.
Here’s what’s going on: Warm weather expands the wood, leaving room for the nails and screws to become loose and move. When the cold weather comes and the boards contract, the nails may be in a slightly different position, which when summer comes will make the handrail even less stable.
If a handrail is wobbly or bending, it may be time to replace it.
This is another area that causes hundreds of injuries every year. Wear and tear and weather can loosen the stairs much like handrails, but there is an added danger if one step collapses or becomes loose as they can pose tripping hazards, if not worse.
If stairs bend when you walk on them or there are splits or splinters in the wood, you should inspect the steps to see if they need replacing.
The posts are potential access points for termites, wood-boring beetles or dry rot. Not only that, but the posts are the main support for your deck so it’s imperative they remain free of infestation from pests, lest you want to risk the stability of your deck.
If the wood is splitting or decaying, you can inspect it by inserting a flathead screwdriver into the cracks or splits. If you can insert it more than 1/4 inch into the wood and the wood feels spongy, you should call an inspector and replace as necessary.
Protruding nails and screws
As mentioned in the handrail section, nails and screws can loosen and start working themselves out of their holes. If they start working their way out, they can protrude from the floor of your deck and cause snag and trip hazards. Not only that, but loose nails and screws can cause boards and support structures to become less stable.
Get down on your hands and knees periodically and crawl around your deck, which will give you an excellent vantage point to see splinters, raised nails and other hazards that are hard to spot from an adult’s perspective. Seeing the world from your pet’s or child’s point of view will help you spot problems before they become real dangers.
Sealer and stain tips
The best way to prevent wear and tear on your deck is by applying a coat of sealer annually. Sealers protect against moisture that causes rot and splitting, last one cycle of seasons and should be reapplied each year.
Also, if you have used stains, paint-maker A.G. Williams recommends that if they are transparent or semi-transparent, you apply sealer on an annual basis. Solid states, which are almost like paint, provide several years of protection and should be recoated every four or five years.