Who’s Thinking About Deck Safety? I Am!

A few months ago, the Today Show asked Simpson Strong-Tie to demonstrate a deck collapse to educate the public about deck safety. Often through the Fall and Winter months, decks go unused yet see a lot of activity from rain, sleet and snow. When the sun comes out in the Spring, people get out on their decks again without much thought about how the elements may have affected the important connections on their deck.

In addition to the weather, there are other factors to consider about deck safety:

  • Experts agree that the average life expectancy of a wood deck is 10 to 15 years.
  • It’s estimated that there are millions of decks in the U.S. that are beyond their useful life and may be unsafe.
  • The number of deck collapses has increased in recent years.
  • Within the past five years, 651 injuries and four deaths have occurred due to deck collapse.

So, I’m thinking about deck safety. I thought I’d share with you the “5 Warning Signs of an Unsafe Deck” we discussed on the Today Show:

1. Loose Connections. Wobbly railings or loose stairs are common on a deck, especially one that was built a few years ago. It’s important that you address these areas and make sure they’re properly secured. Decks age as they go through different seasons and the associated issues require annual inspection.

2. Missing Connections. Often loose connections mean missing connections. If a deck is off the ground – you want to go underneath it and make sure you have the proper hardware. Often a deck is held together with only nails. Toe-nailed connections can pull out – metal connectors are much stronger and can provide more load capacity. If connectors or fasteners are missing on a deck, you want to add them.

3. Corrosion. As mentioned earlier, a deck is exposed to weather and other outdoor conditions every day, which can cause the hardware on a deck to corrode or rust. If you see signs of red rust, you may need to replace the metal connectors or fasteners. Not all rust is bad – for instance white rust generally does not mean that the steel is corroding. To address corrosion issues when re-building or retrofitting a deck, you should use connectors that are coated for outdoor conditions. Using Simpson Strong-Tie® ZMAX or HDG or stainless steel connectors and fasteners can help protect the deck from corrosion.

4. Rotted Wood. Over time, wood can rot and weaken your deck. To test wood on a deck, stick a screw driver in the area of wood that you think is rotted. If it appears soft, it should be replaced immediately. Remember, the life expectancy of a wood deck is only about 10 to 15 years.

5. Cracked Wood If you see large cracks in any wood members, you should replace them.

For more information and resources on how to build and maintain a strong deck, including our “5 Steps to a Stronger, Safer Deck” brochure, visit our consumer site at www.safestronghome.com.

– Paul

Paul McEntee

Author: Paul McEntee

A couple of years back we hosted a “Take your daughter or son to work day,” which was a great opportunity for our children to find out what their parents did. We had different activities for the kids to learn about careers and the importance of education in opening up career opportunities. People often ask me what I do for Simpson Strong-Tie and I sometimes laugh about how my son Ryan responded to a questionnaire he filled out that day:

Q.   What is your mom/dad's job?
A.   Goes and gets coffee and sits at his desk

Q.   What does your mom/dad actually do at work?
A.   Walks in the test lab and checks things

When I am not checking things in the lab or sitting at my desk drinking coffee, I manage Engineering Research and Development for Simpson Strong-Tie, focusing on new product development for connectors and lateral systems.

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in California. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie, I worked for 10 years as a consulting structural engineer designing commercial, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects. I was fortunate in those years to work at a great engineering firm that did a lot of everything. This allowed me to gain experience designing with wood, structural steel, concrete, concrete block and cold-formed steel as well as working on many seismic retrofits of historic unreinforced masonry buildings.