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Is Your Outdoor Deck Really Safe? Three Questions to Ask

The outdoor deck is still one of the most enjoyable amenities for any homeowner today. It provides valuable space for entertaining, outdoor cooking, or even exercise activities like stationary cycling or yoga.

There are many uses for these structures, and they also look great. That’s why many homeowners are constantly adding or restoring their outdoor decks.

As useful as outdoor decks can be, it’s dangerous to overlook the safety concerns they present. Here are a few examples:

Wooden patio design
  • An outdoor deck is built five or more feet off the ground and has begun to “creak” or move, especially when more weight is placed on the surface
  • A homeowner moves into a home with an aging deck, and the frame/support structure shows signs of weakness
  • A relatively new deck was built by previous homeowners or a questionable contractor, and you aren’t sure about the overall safety/integrity of the structure

In all of these cases, taking a closer look at the safety of your outdoor deck is a good idea. It’s difficult to know exactly what (if any) safety issues you may be facing, so it helps to consult an outdoor deck specialist who can inspect your deck and identify any problem areas. Before you take that step, however, it’s a good idea to ask yourself three basic questions.

Is the surface rotten and/or cracked?

If the surface of your deck shows signs that the wood is actually rotted or cracked in places, safety is definitely an issue. Rotten wood can easily cave when too much weight is placed on it, and cracks can also develop into serious safety concerns. One piece of good news: You might not have to tear your deck down just because the surface is in rough shape. As long as the underlying support structure is in good condition, it may be a good candidate for professional deck resurfacing—which is quite a bit cheaper and faster than building a totally new deck.

Does it move under your feet?

When a deck moves or wobbles underfoot, in a tangible or noticeable way, there are safety issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible. In fact, in most cases, it’s better to keep everyone off the deck until safety issues can be identified and resolved by a qualified outdoor deck specialist.

Is your deck held together properly?

Take a close look underneath your deck and take note of how the structure is held together. Do you see a variety of connectors, nails, and heavy-duty screws? Or does it seem to be held together using only nails? A properly conducted deck will make use of heavy-duty connecting systems to make sure everything holds in place over the long term. If a visual inspection indicates that the connectors are weak, corroded, or otherwise insufficient, it may be time to call an outdoor deck specialist.

What to do next

When outdoor decks and built and maintained properly, with the help of qualified professionals, there’s very little that can or should go wrong in terms of safety. At the same time, many homeowners let several years pass without subjecting their outdoor decks to routine safety inspections, and maintenance considerations such as resurfacing, refinishing, or sanding and staining. When in doubt, it helps to have a reputable outdoor deck specialist on your side.