Deck Safety Month: Why Inspecting Your Deck Each Year is Essential

May is recognized as Deck Safety Month, a critical reminder for homeowners to inspect and maintain their outdoor decks. With the weather warming up and more activities shifting outdoors, ensuring the safety of your deck is not just a precaution—it’s a necessity.

In this post, we’ll explore why annual deck inspections are crucial, provide some eye-opening statistics on deck failures, and share a safety checklist from the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) to help you ensure your deck is safe and secure.

The Importance of Deck Safety

Decks are a central part of outdoor home life, perfect for gatherings, barbecues, and relaxation. However, they require regular maintenance to stay safe. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that each year, thousands of people are injured due to deck collapses and failures. These accidents often occur because of deteriorated or improperly installed components.

Startling Statistics on Deck Failures

  • Annual Injuries and Fatalities: Over 6,500 injuries have been reported annually due to deck collapses, with fatalities unfortunately occurring in the most severe cases.
  • Age of Failing Decks: Approximately 90% of deck collapses occurred with decks that were 20 to 30 years old, highlighting the risks of aging structures.
  • Improper Installation: A significant number of deck failures result from improper installation, particularly faulty ledger boards, which are the most common point of failure.
  • Number of Decks: It is estimated that over 30 million decks in the US have lived past their useful (safe) life and should be replaced immediately.

These statistics underline the critical need for regular inspections and maintenance, emphasizing that the safety of your deck should never be taken for granted.

NADRA’s Deck Safety Checklist

The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) provides a comprehensive deck safety checklist for homeowners to follow during their annual inspections. Here are some key components you should check:

Split or Decaying Wood:

Check several different areas of the deck to be sure the wood is still sound. This includes the ledger board (where the deck attaches to the house and a common source of deck failure), support posts and joists under the deck (if you can reach them), deck boards, railings and stairs.

Pay special attention to any areas that tend to remain damp, are regularly exposed to water, or are in contact
with fasteners. Use a tool like an ice pick or a screwdriver to penetrate the wood surface.

If you can easily penetrate ¼ – ½ inch, break off a sliver of wood without splinters, or the wood is soft and spongy, decay may be present. This is also a good time to look for small holes in the wood, which may indicate insects.


Flashing is a metal or plastic guard that directs water out and away from sensitive areas. It’s often installed
where the deck and house come together, keeping moisture and debris from collecting between the house
and the deck’s ledger board.

Be certain the flashing is sound and firmly in place. Consider adding or replacing flashing if you notice areas that are obviously allowing water to collect.

Loose or Corroded Fasteners:

Fasteners include nails, screws or anchors in the ledger board. Tighten any loose fasteners, and pound in any
nails that have popped up. (Note: The ledger board should not be fastened with only nails.)

If a fastener appears rusted or corroded, consider replacing it. A corroded fastener can cause deterioration
in surrounding wood. The deck or stairs should appear even without sagging and should not sway or move when tested.


Check any railings or handrails to be sure they are firmly held in place; check also the risers and stringers to
be certain they are securely attached and not decayed. If the area behind the stair treads is open, this opening should be no more than 4” high.

Also, always keep stair pathways clear of planters, décor, toys and other items that can present a tripping

Railings and Banisters:

Ensure that all railings and banisters are secure and do not wobble. They should be able to withstand a reasonable amount of force without moving.

Cleaning and Maintenance:

Clean away any leaves and debris, since these can be slippery and promote mildew. If mildew is present or the deck coating has worn away, make time to clean and apply a new waterproofing coating. It can help prevent the split, decayed wood and loosened fasteners mentioned earlier.

Grills, Fire Pits, Chimneys, Heaters and Candles:

These features can create a warm and cozy deck atmosphere, but make sure any source of fire or heat is safely placed away from flammable surfaces or that the deck surface is protected by
a non-flammable pad. Always use caution and follow manufacturers’ directions.

Lighting and Electrical:

Be sure all lighting is working; clean any light covers to allow maximum light to shine through, and trim any
plants or tree limbs that may be blocking light.

If you don’t have adequate lighting, there are a lot of great new deck lighting products you could consider to
illuminate your steps and pathways.

Be sure all electrical outlets, appliances and features are up to code, in good condition, and childproof if
children are present. Watch that any electrical cords do not present a tripping hazard.

Foundation and Footings:

Check the base of the posts and the concrete footings for cracking or sinking. Check all hardware attached to the foundation or footings for corrosion. Are the footers at the proper depth and width and using the proper footer to post hardware?

Outdoor furniture & Storage:

Test all outdoor furniture to be sure it is sturdy. Avoid placing seating right at the edge of the deck. If you have a swing or hammock installed, test the chains and ropes to be sure they are secure. Consider installing childproof latches on any storage boxes and benches.

Be sure to keep all deck related chemical products stored safely away from children, including BBQ lighter
fluids, matches, cleaners, etc.

Overall Structure:

Look over the general architecture of your deck for any signs of leaning or instability.

Surrounding Trees:

If you have trees overhanging your deck, make certain there is no danger of decaying limbs breaking free
and falling from trees surrounding the deck.



Deck Safety Month serves as a poignant reminder to take deck inspections seriously. Regular checks and maintenance not only extend the life of your deck but also safeguard the well-being of everyone who enjoys it. Take the time this May to go through NADRA’s deck safety checklist or consider hiring a professional to ensure that your outdoor space is both enjoyable and safe. Remember, a well-maintained deck is a safe deck.

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