A deck makes your backyard more enjoyable. But like your gutters or siding, it should be inspected at least once a year to ensure deck components such as flashing, fasteners, boards, and railings are in good shape. Here are some things to check to keep your deck safe and a fun place for everyone to relax.
Banisters and Railings
If you didn’t build the deck yourself or have it a contractor do it for you, a good place to start is with railing height. Most municipal bylaws and building codes specify a required minimum railing height of 36 inches. To make sure small children and pets can’t squeeze through, rails should be placed no more than 4 apart. Railings and banisters must be stable – push on them to test for shifting or movement of any kind.
Stairs should be examined for tripping hazards such as loose boards, toys, or planters and other decorations that have been moved into the walking path of individual steps. Also, check the following:
- banisters and railing are firmly in place
- points of connection between the stairs and the deck are not compromised
- risers and stringers (sides of the stairs into which the treads and railings are secured) to ensure they are attached properly
- open-tread staircases should have opening no more than 4 inches
Deck flashing, like gutter flashing, is the thin water-resistant material used to waterproof the area where the deck connects to the house. Flashing can fail for a number of reasons including age, incorrect installation, or shifting of the ground/deck/home. Deck flashing helps prevent water from seeping into exterior walls and causing moisture-related issues such as rot or mold.
In order to be effective, deck flashing should extend 4 to 6 inches from the deck floor up the exterior wall. To test flashing, gently spray water on a wall attached to the deck and watch how the water progresses downward: it should flow easily to the ground unobstructed. If the deck was built without any flashing, it should be added sometime in the near future, particularly if the deck is displaying wear or early signs of deterioration.
Wood and Hardware
The boards of the deck should be in good condition. If the wood is splintered or its surface faded or “bleached” in appearance, it should be repaired and re-stained or repainted.
All fasteners, nails, and screws that connect the components of your deck should be tight, free of wear, and not be rusted or missing.