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BUILDING A SAFE DECK - MY OPINION

PLEASE NOTE:This following was excerpted from the Monday Morning Marketer, a newsletter specifically written for Home Inspectors.

A SAFE DECK - MY OPINION

PLEASE NOTE:This following was excerpted from the Monday Morning Marketer, a newsletter specifically written for Home Inspectors.

The article in This Old House confirmed what I had been suspecting all along. Decks are a real safety issue for Home Inspectors. I am now taking a different approach when inspecting a deck. I am now assuming that all decks are a piece of junk until my evaluation proves me wrong. I also have to add some new terminology to my report to deal with these topics.

I have been intuitively noting for the last year whether or not the decks are secured to the houses with nails or lag bolts. My findings were consistent though: well-constructed decks have lag bolt attachments, while throw-em-up tract homes and do-it-yourselfer decks usually have nails.

NOTE: Even if the deck has lag bolts, never make the assumption that the bolts are installed into a secured portion of the home. They may be screwed into just OSB or plywood.

Those of you inspecting in humid climates probably probe the living daylights out of ledger boards already, but here in Utah where it is so arid, that probing usually does not reveal damage. The rot is just not there. When rot is present, it is very evident without even probing.

The This Old House article stressed the importance of probing the ledger board on homes without the proper flashing for rot. About 95% of the decks in my area are not flashed. Only the expensive mansions employ this method of protection. I report the lack of flashing and I make a strong point to report on the ledger board connection and make the Safety Upgrade recommendation for the addition of lag bolts.

In my opinion, nailed ledger boards that are separating from the house are now a HAZARD needing further evaluation/repair/upgrading. Lag bolted ledger boards that are separating from the home are in need of resecuring to prevent deck failure.

The most secure decks appear to be those that are constructed as free-standing units without any attachments to the main home for strength. This provides the proper free standing supports around the entire perimeter of the unit. I can only imagine how immediate the second story fall from a failed deck ledger board would be.

Feedback from your deck experiences would be greatly appreciated.

 
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