Deck Safety Starts at the House

A few years ago there was a big story here in Richmond about a deck that had collapsed during a weekend barbecue. A group of friends had gotten together to cook out when the deck detached from the side of the house and collapsed. Several people were injured and unfortunately, this is a common occurrence.

In celebration of May’s National Deck Safety month, we want to discuss one of the key components to making a deck safe: the connection to the house. When designing and building a deck for a client, the deck builder has to decide whether to build a free-standing deck or a deck that’s attached to the house via a ledger board. Some homes, such a brick, stone and stucco veneer homes, cannot have attached decks due to code or other site conditions.

For those decks that are attached to the house, a ledger board (band that supports one end of the deck joists) is secured to the house band (horizontal band that’s a part of the house structure). This connection is key to the safety of deck. If it fails, the deck has the possibility of collapsing. As building codes and requirements have changed in the last few years regarding connection, it’s important to have a trained professional come out and inspect your ledger connection. Here are a few things they should be looking for or at:

Flashing – Also known as drip edge, flashing is a material that stops moisture from entering the home. Deck flashing is placed between the house band and the ledger board. An inspector would check to make sure that the flashing is still in place and intact to prevent rot and decay.

Fastener Type and Spacing – Simple nails cannot hold the weight of deck and shouldn’t be used to fasten the ledger board to the house band. ½ inch lag screws or through bolts with washers need to be place 2” from the bottom or top of the ledger and with 1’ of the end. Additionally, they need to be staggered strategically along the horizontal ledger.

Corrosion – With metal fasteners being the keep component to holding your deck together, it’s important to check that all of the pieces are in good working condition. Corrosion can occur over time weakening the system making it more susceptible to breakage or failure.

Rot – Rot is most common at the house band (especially if it isn’t properly flashed), but can also occur along the ledger board. Rot and decay, if not properly inspected and fix can lead to structural decay within your home and ledger failure, causing your deck to collapse.

If you have a deck that is over 7 years old or in questionable condition, we at Archadeck suggest having a trained deck professional come out and inspect the safety of your deck. They will be able to tell you what you need to repair now and what you will need to repair in the coming years. For more information, please visit us at Archadeck.com or contact your local Archadeck office.

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