You might not think of safety as an aspect that you need to pay attention to with regards to your deck or front porch, but believe me, it’s important for you, and for anyone who ventures onto your property.
I learned this the hard way a few summers ago as I stood on my front porch, enjoying my early morning cup of tea. Suddenly, I felt the board beneath one of my feet give way. I plunged downwards through the floorboards, and was only stopped because my thigh became trapped between the remaining boards. Painful, yes. Spilled tea? Yes. Broken bone? No, thankfully.
Needless to say, this was a wakeup call. It could have been my child, the postal worker, a neighbour or a friend who found themselves in this thigh-deep in my front porch, but luckily it was not.
If you’re building or maintaining an existing deck, here are some safety tips to help you avoid the same painful experience, from our expert at BBG Carpentry, John Groves.
1. Types of decks:
- Floating deck: Not dug into the ground, it sits on patio stones or deck blocks. The only issue with this is it’s susceptible to ground movement and frost heave.
- Attached: Attached to your house using a ledger board. This is a very good way of building a deck, but it needs to be done properly (see below).
- Independent Deck: Still has a footing and is dug into the ground, but not attached to the house. A solid option.
2) Contractor Qualifications
Find out if your prospective contractor is qualified. Does he have a certificate in either carpentry or as a general contractor? Check if he has liability insurance and WSIB insurance or the equivalent, depending on the province you reside in. This helps protect his workers should they be injured on the job.
3) Verifying Fasteners
Check out whether the fasteners (screws, nails, bolts etc.) they are using are corrosion resistant, and compliant with pressure treated lumber i.e. ACQ, hot-dipped galvanized. You need these fasteners to stop corrosion in order to make your deck last a long time.
Get a basic idea of the different processes involved in building a deck; how the footings, framing and joist hangers are done. If you’ve got a little bit of an idea of how the deck is built it will help ensure you’ve got a better person building it and a better product in the end.
5) Treatment for Wood Decks
Make sure an end-cut treatment is being applied to the ends of the pressure treated lumber after it is cut. The ends of the joists are sponge like and need to be protected from insects and rot. This chemical treatment helps seel these vulnerable ends.
6) The ledger
The ledger links the whole frame of the deck to the house. On a brick veneered house the proper way to do this is to use a half-inch galvanized bolt. It goes directly through the framing, through the brick and into the frame of the house.
7) Railing height
Typically, if your deck is over 5’10’’ your railing needs to be 42 inches tall. If it’s less than 5’10’’ it needs to be at least 36 inches.
Pickets on your railing can’t be more than 4 inches apart.
9) Safety test
How to test out if your deck is safe:
- Check your deck for flex or bounce –Bounce up and down, if there is a lot of give you could have rot within your joists, so it may be a good time to replace your deck.
- Check your fastenings and joist hangers – if they are rusted or corroded it could be time for a new deck
- Check the footings – Check the concrete if it’s cracking or crumbling you could get water penetration.
- Check the railings – Give them a shake, if they shake too much, loosen or fall apart it may be time for a new deck.
Making sure your family and guests are safe is job #1. Follow these useful tips and you’ll have a fun and safe summer!