Broken railings and stairs are a leading cause of deck related injuries. Years ago, there weren’t any codes to adhere to when constructing these elements. Most railings were simply nailed without any structural support and when people leaned on it, they failed to stay in place. Stairs are also another common area where improper installation and improper fastening is the culprit of injury.
We always advise you to check your local building codes to use as a guideline when checking your deck.
Always exercise caution when inspecting your deck and rely on your common sense to stay safe. If you believe that areas are not safe, do not stand on it or attempt to inspect it. Instead, hire a licensed inspector to check the structure.
When checking your railings, make sure that they are properly attached to the girders and joists with stainless steel brackets and bolts. This ensures a secure connection and the guardrails will bear the weight of people who lean on it. Nails don’t have the capacity or fastening strength to hold guard rails. If you have any guardrails attached with nails, replace them with brackets and bolts. Railings should be evenly spaced at 4″ apart on center. This is a safety feature to prevent small children or pets from falling between the gaps. If you have handrail posts and balusters, make sure the tops are pitched. This will help shed water and not let it accumulate in the end grain where water intrusion can cause havoc.
Stairs are another cause of deck collapses and injuries. The stairs are a major access point to your deck and sees continuous foot traffic. Stairs can be built in numerous ways. Commonly, stairs are built using stringers. If your stairs are made with stringers, make sure that the stringers are at most 36” a part. This is what many codes require. The stringers need to be made comfortably and up to code. Typically the rise and run of it must be 7” and 11” respectively. Check your local building code to assure you of the proper measurements.
Read more tips on deck safety and inspection. Also, if you have any tips or stories to share of your own, please leave us a comment below. Thanks for reading!