Over 40 million of decks in the United States are over 20 years old. If you have not inspected the structural integrity of your deck in the past 20 years, or you have a home with a deck you know nothing about, this is the time to inspect the decking for potential hazards.
Summer is right around the corner. Spending time outside is just a way of life during these warm, sunny months, but don’t forget about your recent visit from Jack Frost. Sure the decking may look fine, but underneath there could be some damage that needs immediate attention.
If you recently purchased a home with an older deck, it would be best to not step foot on it until you learn a little more about its past. Walk underneath the deck and take a look at the fasteners, especially on the ledger board. The ledger board is the header board which attaches the decking to the house. This is where the majority of decking fails because the only fasteners used were simple straight screws.
Why are nails the worst possible fastener for a deck? Throughout the seasons decking expands and contracts. Over time, this stretches the area around the fastener and causes the decking to become loose. Even more moisture can enter through these holes and cause rotted decking. All around, nails are just a bad idea.
If you discover your old deck is held together with only nails, DO NOT WALK ON IT. This is an extremely dangerous situation and needs to be taken care of by a local licensed contractor before people walk on its surface.
Now you might be asking the question, “If nails are the only thing holding my decking together, how did this get past inspection?”
The answer is simple; updated building codes. Using nails has been phased out, and now more secure fasteners are used such as lag bolts and screws.
Now, if you happen to look under your decking and you see lag bolts or screws, consider yourself lucky! Most of the time these fasteners just need a little tightening up, but if you see any corrosion or rusting, it is important to change these fasteners out. If you have to replace fasteners completely, opt for stainless steel.
If you are unsure about the safety and stability of your deck DO NOT WALK ON IT. Contact a local licensed contractor that is familiar with the installation process.