Not all decks are created equal. In fact, an older or poorly built deck can prove to be a dangerous piece of your property. Here are some key deck defects you’ll want to look out for.
Your home inspector is going to be looking very carefully at any deck that's present on a property you're considering. That's because, in order to be safe and functional, a deck needs to be carefully planned, built, and maintained. Here's a look at the most common defects:
#5 Damaged, Decaying, or Broken Wood
If any wood on the deck's surface is damaged or broken, that's something that needs to be repaired for the aesthetic value and safety of the deck. But, even more so, if the wood is damaged on the guard railing or support structure, that's a serious potential hazard that should ideally be addressed by the seller before you ever move in. Decayed wood usually indicated a moisture problem or improper contact of wood at the concrete surface or because of the grade.
#4 Improper Connections
If the deck is going to be supported as an attachment to the home, then the ledger board on the side of the deck needs to be lag bolted using threaded rods, washers, and nuts. About 90% of all decks that collapse do so because they are improperly connected to the home. Any deck joists that are present need to have about 1-1/2" of bearing on wood or metal to properly support the floor. This usually requires joist hangers because too nailing joists are susceptible to withdrawal.
#3 Unsafe Staircases
Most often, defects are hidden in the staircases or steps. The stairway should not move or sway when people walk up it. The landing may also be inappropriate with inconsistent tread height, improper connections, or non-conforming openings, among other issues.
#2 Loose Guard Railing
If the guard railing can't withstand more than 200 pounds of force, it is a huge potential safety hazard for anyone using the deck. Improper post attachments, or lack there of, along with notched 4x4 posts or an insufficient number of support posts are the biggest defects to be found. Most people lean on the guard rail and some children even climb atop them. If its weak, it could lead to serious injury.
#1 DIY Builds
Many decks out there are either built as part of "DIY" projects and/or they are under-engineered or do not meet code. Many creative homeowners commit to building a deck even when they lack the knowledge of proper code, leading to dangerous situations as the deck ages. New construction decks are also not often built to standard code. Bolted beam to posts is the most common defect because it relies on the strength of the fasteners being used. Undersized joists, notched puts, trip hazards, fall hazards, uneven planes, and so on are other common issues.