Some homeowners take full advantage of their deck space, using it for everything from nightly cooking to regular get-togethers on weekends. At the other end of the spectrum, some homeowners only use theirs to get to and from the backyard.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum of deck utilization, it’s best to get yours inspected annually. After all, decks become weaker with time and age.
Schedule your deck’s annual inspection so that you can rest assured it won’t fail you.
Why Annual Inspections Are Necessary
Let’s look at all the factors working against our decks, whether made of wood or composite material:
- All wood has a lifespan.
- All support beams can shift in the ground from temperature fluctuations, moisture content, or bulldozing pests.
- All wood is exposed to the elements and wood-gnawing creatures.
- Most decks are elevated, which is a naturally less stable position, to begin with.
No matter what type of material your deck is built from, it will always have time and Mother Nature wearing on it. Height, coupled with inevitable weathering and decomposition, can be a recipe for disaster. Consistent, annual precautions and care will ensure that it literally stands the test of time.
Hire a Knowledgeable Inspector
In this article, we’re going to give you some things to look for and secure on your own. However, you’ll want to hire a knowledgeable inspector with a combination of decking installation experience and safety code regulations to give your deck and repairs a proper once-over. Your inspector can spot problems and recommend solutions to prevent deck failure and injuries.
Only the trained eye can identify those hard-to-spot problems, like outdated specs, below-grade wood rot, and too much moisture in wooden boards or posts. And don’t worry about getting a “perfect grade” on your inspection. There’s usually room for improvement with any construction build. Even professional installers need the eagle-eyed expertise of an inspector.
Repair Before Your Inspection
Some maintenance issues are easy to spot and address. Here’s a list from our Colorado deck builders of do-it-yourself or handy-man-worthy fixes:
Inspect what is visible to you. Walk on and around your deck. Notice its walking surface, posts, railings, and underside (substructure). As you examine it, look for signs of wood damage, like decay (soft, spongy wood) or insect destruction (holes or sawdust).
- Monitor cracks found around fasteners and in between joists. These weak points can ruin the integrity of entire decks. The goal is to make sure small splits don’t increase in size. Water sealant can help prevent a crack’s growth. IF the damage continues to grow, replace the entire board.
- Watch for signs of too much moisture. Randomly pull up at the edge or a splintered section in the middle of a deck board. If the wood bends instead of breaking off, then your wood may be in the early stages of decay. Replace decaying boards.
Fasteners include nails, screws, hangers, and hinges. Look for rusted, corroded, loose, or popped metal on, around, and underneath your deck boards. You or your repair person can easily tighten loose screws or hammer in popped nails. Rusted or corroded hardware is dangerous to the health and strength of your deck, so replace those.
Push and pull on your hand and guardrails to make sure they support weight the way they are supposed to. Any sway or give is an indication that something isn’t quite right somewhere. Look for loose fasteners. If the problem stems from shifted posts in the ground, a professional can help you fix the problem.
Flashing is a waterproof material that covers and protects the ledger board, which connects the deck to the house. Check for missing flashing or water accumulation around the ledger board. Replace or repair immediately and as needed.
Check your deck’s outlets, lights, drop cords, outdoor appliances, and any other electrical features. Make sure all are in good condition and work properly. In addition, ensure that none of these items are in pathways and pose a tripping hazard.
Even after you have repaired and replaced what you can, chances are good that your inspector will find something that needs improving, and that’s okay. They are trained to look for ways to make your deck stronger and safer. Resolve the issues they find. Then, get a re-inspection to verify that repairs are correct and meet safety standards.
When To Schedule Your Deck’s Inspection
Any inspection is better than none. However, springtime is usually just right for the task. Aim for a time between winter and summer. By then, snow and ice have melted, and the ground has had time to thaw, but bushes and brush surrounding your custom deck haven’t had time to bloom and spread, potentially blocking your view of the substructure.
An Ounce of Prevention
Your vigilance once a year will save you costly repairs and avoidable injuries in the future. Yearly maintenance and examinations will help you enjoy your deck longer and give you added peace of mind.