Deck Safety – Proper Fasteners & Fastener Locations

It is that time of year again.  Old man winter has finally decided to make his annual retreat leaving us with warm days and warmer thoughts.  This month w shake off the sweatshirt and trade it in for a bathing suit.  Before you put the hot coffee down and run out for a cold beer there’s a couple things you should double check.  The thing that may take the spring out of your step the quickest, is a sprained ankle.

May is NADRA’s (North American Deck and Railing Association) “deck safety month” for good reason.  This is the time of year we really start to use our decks often.  Based on data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 6,000 people are injured each year in incidents involving the structural failure or collapse of a deck or porch.  The worst part of these accidents isn’t that they ruin a spring and summer but more that they are preventable with a little bit of forethought and diligence.  You are going to want to make sure that everything is sturdy instead of appearing sturdy.  One of the most common failure points is the ledger.  Here’s a couple things to look for on a ledger.

Problem:   Improper fasteners and fastener locations – A ledger should always be at least lag bolted into the stud of a wall or rafter.  Not just the plywood sheathing on a wall.  If it is lagged only into the sheathing you are relying on a ½” piece of plywood (or worse OSB) to carry the load of an entire deck.  Add a little dry rot to that piece of plywood and you are asking for a catastrophe.  The best practice is blocking and a through bolt and a piece of hardware made for this but can often be extremely cost prohibitive.  If you don’t have lag bolts in your ledger board and/or they aren’t in rafter’s or studs, than have them installed before putting anytime on your deck this spring and summer.

Solution:  It’s best to have a professional come out and check your deck.  You can do it yourself too, if you have a decent understanding of construction knowledge.  The way to check ledger fastening is to check and see if your lag bolts are attached to the rafters or studs is to pull one out.  You’ll know quickly if it has resistance the entire way out.  Check to see if it’s corroded while you have it out, if it looks bad replace them all.  If everything looks good check the spacing on the bolts.  If they are evenly spaced, then move on to our next possible problem and solution series.

Along with these quick tips and tricks you will always want to check with your most recent approved local building codes or at least the most recent update of IRC (International Residential Code) IRC Deck Code.

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