The average lifespan of a pine, cedar, or similarly softer wood deck is 15 years. Over 15 years the deck can shift, leaving it vulnerable to damage, and possibly a collapse. Although checking for secure fasteners and screws is a great way to ensure the lifespan of your deck, it is not the only action that should be taken. Railings may be one of the most overlooked safety issues on decks today. Most deck owners assume if a railing is present, then it’s safe. It is important to check railings regularly to make sure they’re up to local building codes.
If you are unsure about the safety and stability of your deck railing, DO NOT LEAN ON IT. Call a local licensed contractor who is familiar with your local building codes. They are the most qualified people who can judge the safety of your deck.
To check your railings, GENTLY apply some force onto them. Make sure there is NO give. Check the height and width to make sure the measurements are up to code. The last thing you want is a child or animal squeezing through, getting stuck, or worse falling right through a loose baluster. Secure any loose fasteners, and check the ends of the rails for water damage. If any railing, post, or baluster is rotted, replace immediately.
Stairs are equally, if not more, important than railings. Of course, it is crucial to inspect the railings on a stairway to ensure they will support the weight of anyone walking up and down the stairs. Make sure the stringers and risers are securely attached and are not rotting or decaying. If the stairs are open in the back, the distance between each stair should not exceed 4”.
Knowing your railing and stairways are secure and safe, allows you to enjoy your outdoor space without worrying about what could happen. If you are unsure about the stability of your deck DO NOT WALK ON IT. Call a local licensed contractor that can see the job gets done properly. Don’t take too much on yourself. Just sit back, relax, and know you’ve taken the right steps to deck safety.
If you want to build a wood deck railing system that has a lifespan at least 30 years, visit our Deck Hand Railing page.