The deck can be a lifesaver especially if you are spending extended time at home during a lockdown or a sabbatical. You can lounge around, spend some time outdoors without really leaving the house, or enjoy a cookout with your family. But how do you make sure your deck is safe to use for years to come? Here are some deck tips and safety precautions to consider.

Start with the Foundation

The deck is only as reliable and safe as its foundation, which is comprised of the support posts. To make sure the deck is durable and will give you firm footing, the pier system must have holes that are deep enough and way below the frost line. If the holes are shallow, the support post may move during winter when moisture in the ground freezes, causing the soil to shift.

Additionally, the bases of the support posts are best encased with galvanized plates before they are anchored to the pier with concrete. Foundations that are built this way are less likely to rot and deteriorate over time.

Inspect the Railings

Inspect the railings WIN Home Inspection

The deck’s railings are its main safety feature especially if you have kids or pets with you. There are three primary issues when it comes to railings. First, you need to make sure that it is strong and stable enough to support at least 200 lbs. of pressure on all sides. To check this, give it a good push and pull to see if it remains secure even with the additional pressure. Most U.S Building Codes require railing support posts that are no farther apart than 6 feet. This ensures the stability of the deck’s railing.

Second, the railing must have a height of at least 36 inches or 3 ft. from the floor of the deck. The handrail must be easy to grip with a diameter of no more than 2.25 inches. And lastly, to prevent children and pets from squeezing through the rails, each baluster should be no more than 4 inches apart. These safety measures are especially important if your deck is constructed high above the ground.

Mind the Stairs

Mind the deck stairs WIN Home Inspection

When it comes to the stair’s guardrails, the same safety measures for the deck’s railings apply. Also, you might want to check the integrity of the stairs and make sure it doesn’t wobble. The stair’s stability can be attributed to the risers, stringers, and treads. So make sure these individual parts of the stairs are still sound and securely attached, especially the point of connection between the deck and the stairs.

Additionally, keep the stair clear of decor, planters, and other stuff that may pose as trip hazards.

Replace Damaged Wood

Rot and wood destroying organisms, such as termites, are the worst enemies of wood and should be prevented at all costs. To do this, remove leaves right away and other buildups like moss or mildew. For starters, the floor could get slippery with these around. Plus, moisture could eventually lead to wood decay and splinter.

To check the integrity of the wood, use an ice pick or any tool with a sharp tip. If you can push this tool easily into the wood or if you find that the wood has become spongy, this is a good indication that the replacement of the damaged wood planks is in order. Check the other parts of the deck like the support posts, ledger boards, joists, and railings as well.

Check the Fasteners

Check the Fasteners WIN Home Inspection

Between nails and screws, screws make better fasteners for decks because of its better grip on wood whereas nails could loosen over time. But still, regardless of what type of fasteners you use for your deck, you need to routinely check them for corrosion and if they have loosened up. Replace nails that have popped up and tighten loose screws right away.

This should take care of the creaking sound and slight wobble. But if this doesn’t take care of the problem, the deck could be structurally compromised and it’s better to have a professional inspect your deck and make the necessary repairs.

Use Non-Flammable Pads

Fire can be a real problem when you have a wood deck. So if you’re planning to host a BBQ party, better place the grill somewhere away from the deck. The same goes for fire pits, chimineas, and candles. But if you must have the grill or candles in your wood deck, use a fireproof mat to ensure safety.

Provide Ample Lighting

A well-lit deck does not just provide aesthetic value to your property, it’s a basic safety measure that you can’t afford to overlook as well. That’s why you must regularly check and replace busted light bulbs. Make sure that the lighting fixtures and electrical outlets you’re using are up to standard.

To prevent accidents, make sure there’s ample lighting in the stairs. Trim shrubs and clean outdoor lighting fixtures so that light is not blocked.

Make Sure Surrounding Trees Don’t Pose a Hazard

Make Sure Surrounding Trees Don’t Pose a Hazard WIN Home Inspection

If you have trees around your property, make sure none of the branches overhang or are too close to the deck. Falling leaves are going to be an ever-present problem. Plus, decaying branches can suddenly break off without warning while you or your loved ones are lounging around the deck. Regularly trimming nearby trees makes the best precautionary measure.

Have the Flashing Installed

The flashing is a waterproof and corrosion-resistant material that connects your deck to the main house. This protective material prevents water in the deck from seeping into your home by redirecting the flow into the ground. Since your deck is constantly exposed to the harsh elements, you need to make sure that your home doesn’t have to take a beating too by checking the integrity of your deck’s flashing regularly.

To do this, observe the flashing when it rains. If water flows smoothly from the flashing to the ground, you can rest assured that your house can take on the rainy days without any problem. If your deck has no flashing or even just a little bit of moisture finds its way to the siding, you have to call a professional and make the necessary repairs or else you’ll have to worry about extensive water damage in the future.

Have a Maintenance Plan

Have a Deck Maintenance Plan WIN Home Inspection

Your deck often bear the brunt of natural elements like sunlight, snow, and rainwater. It’s only right that you make it a habit to do a routine deck maintenance check and clean up. These deck tips and safety precaution don't have to take up much of your time either. A once-a-year clean up to scrub mold and mildew would suffice, for instance. You can also do some repairs as well as seal or refinish the deck if the old finish has faded.

A deck can be a precious addition to any house and it’s where a lot of happy memories are created. However, the deck can also be a place where serious injury could happen. So to make sure you won’t ever have to face the prospect of accidents due to collapse or structural issues, it’s best to have a licensed inspector perform a routine evaluation of your deck’s structural integrity.

For more information or to reach out to a home inspector near you, please contact  by clicking . You may also contact us at and one of our experts will contact you promptly.