Published Halloween, 2019
(but copied/updated from the original writing on our WordPress blog site at Halloween 2010; unfortunately, 9 years later its still applicable)
Is there a deck Nightmare On Your Street? Elm Street or otherwise. Is there a Blair Deck Project in your Des Moines area neighborhood? (My wife says some of the deck, porch and patio videos I’ve posted have a “Blair Witch” feel to them; OK, so I’m not Steven Speilberg…or even Stephen King) Do your children come in from playing outside, eerily whispering “I see dead decks?”
Homeowner Advisory: What you are reading/viewing here is not meant to scare you. Its all in fun, right? In the spirit of Halloween…and in the spirit of generating some business…shameless self-promotion (as Mike Wedeking at the Flying Mango is fond of saying during his radio shows on KFMG 98.9 FM). But, its also more real than most horror movies. I’ve been doing this for 16 years now. I think I’m pretty safe in saying I see and walk on more decks, porches and outdoor living structures around the Des Moines and Central Iowa area than nearly anyone else. I’ve even fallen thru a deck. So, it comes with some basis to it. I do see things most other people don’t.
I’ve seen some frightening deck experiences across the backyards of Des Moines, West Des Moines, Altoona, Urbandale, Ames, Ankeny, Johnson and other locales around Central Iowa. And most of that occurs during the daylight hours. Think what its like at nighttime! While visiting / assessing potential projects during our complimentary, on-site design consultations, I’ve walked on a fair number of decks where I’ve literally feared for my (and my potential client’s) life – got that sinking feeling much like you get when you think Michael Myers may be lurking nearby. The most common, scary things I see include (in no particular order):
- House bands not attached properly; an installation issue
- No footings…or footings that aren’t sized properly and/or aren’t below frost line (42” here); an installation issue
- Support posts that are spanned excessively for the load of the deck and/or the size of the post-beam structure; an installation issue
- Nails used where screws or lags should be used to fasten structural components together; an installation issue
- Any number of issues with staircases…long runs, instability, high or variable riser heights, etc.; all installation issues
- Any number of issues with railing…insecure/instability, excessive gaps between balusters, etc.; all installation issues
- Rot…surface deck boards, railing components and, occasionally (and worse) posts because they’re in the ground; the latter is a questionable installation practice (we generally avoid that); the former are aging issues for the most part
- Improper gapping of deck boards (often seen with composite installations…therefore unfairly giving composites a “bad” reputation when, in reality, its an installation issue, not a composite issue)
- Dead and maimed bodies lying on staircases, in the areas along/under the deck (just kidding)
The list could go on. And on. So, you may be asking…whats the scariest thing I’ve seen? In worst-case scenarios, any of those nightmares noted above could ultimately cause bodily harm…or even death. But, I think really the scariest thing I see is the fact that too many people either a) ignore these issues and/or b) choose to go with the cheapest “fix” to these issues. What most people don’t realize is that it was likely the cheapest provider – experienced at taking shortcuts or inexperienced and just not knowing better – that caused most of these non-aging-related issues to begin with. Talk about a sequel waiting to happen. Halloween II, III and IV.
The pictures and video throughout this posting are some “real-world,” scary issues I’ve seen. Real pictures and video, from real backyards around Des Moines and Central Iowa. Not from a Hollywood movie set. Unfortunately, though, in many cases with potential Hollywood horror movie endings. We were not actually engaged to “fix” most of these. I fear that Freddy Krueger may have been, instead.
NADRA designates May as Deck Safety Month and Halloween seems a hauntingly good time to remind folks as well (therefore the re-cycling and updating of this now 9-year-old post). But, deck safety is a year-round issue…and an on-gong one at that. If you have concerns about your deck’s stability or safety, the “off-season” is a great time to make those assessments and appropriate plans going forward…to be safe and worry-free on your deck or porch next spring. Contact us for your complimentary design consultation.
Des Moines has a tradition of trick-or-treating on Beggars Night, the eve preceding Halloween itself. And with that, a tradition of kids telling jokes as their “trick.” We got lots of interesting ones last night (another story for another day). But here’s mine: Why did the man put his deck in the oven? Because he didn’t know he needed to call Archadeck, Central Iowa’s deck and porch builder, to get a hot deck. “Hot” being defined as the best-looking, safest, most structurally sound, warranted and guaranteed for 5 years, most popular space in your neighborhood.
Trick or Treat! Happy Halloween!