The dangers of poor deck construction and maintainence

With springtime coming around the corner, many homeowners start thinking of their next backyard or home renovation project. Building a beautiful outdoor space with a deck or patio seems like an easy thing to take on.  Drop by your local hardware store, pick up a few thousand dollars of lumber and haul it home. A full weekend of hammer swinging and maybe a lending hand from a friend or family member in the trades or construction, and you have yourself a shiny new deck. It seems fairly innocent, right? Well not so fast!

A poorly or improperly constructed deck, such as one using incorrect fastening hardware, missing important flashing and waterproofing details, incorrectly sized footings or spaced support beams, for example, can result in rapid structural deterioration. Inconsistent long-term maintenance can result in water damage and wood rot due to a deck’s constant exposure to the elements, which will eventually compromise the structural integrity of the deck.

Add on the number of people walking on the deck, heavy outdoor furniture, storage and other loads constantly get exerted on the deck, and you have a real recipe for disaster with a slip & fall, or worse a complete deck collapse when hosting a backyard party!

Also consider that a deck (or any residential structure for that matter) built without construction permits and inspected to meet building code, can result in fines, legal issues, or even be ordered for demolition – definitely not something you want inherit when purchasing a second-hand home!!

As home inspectors, we often look for these missing elements on deck structures, as well as any signs of deterioration from age, water damage, etc. Issues may not be apparent up front, so sometimes it takes a trained eye to spot problems. This is especially important when hiring a home inspector to perform a due-diligence inspection as subject to purchasing a home, avoiding costly re-construction & repair fees, and avoiding legal problems with the municipal building authority, is well worth the moderate fee of an inspection.

A great resource outlining the standards of deck, balcony and patio construction, is freely available via BC Housing: https://www.bchousing.org/publications/IG-Building-Safe-Durable-Decks-Balconies.pdf