Repair Your Deck or Replace
There are approximately 40 million decks in the United States and only half of those are code compliant. Deck safety is a real problem. Every year we hear about decks that collapse under the weight of people or any other added weight. Improperly built decks can be dangerous. Local codes were created to keep us safe and, unfortunately, many existing decks do not meet current safety codes.
If you have an existing deck that is more than three years old you should have it inspected for deck safety and make necessary maintenance corrections by repairing the deck hardware to make your deck safe and bring it more in line with code compliance. Below are important ways to repair your deck for those who are serious about deck safety (which should include everyone). However, if your deck is 10-15 years old, your deck is at the end of its lifespan and you should consider replacement or at minimum serious rehab and deck repair.
How to Repair Your Deck
Wood can rot over time or when over exposed to moisture, such as a lawn sprinkler. Inspect and replace all rotted framing, decking or railings as needed. Large cracks in framing should also be evaluated and replaced when repairing your deck.
Missing or improper connections
Toe-nailing or direct nailing of joists is no longer an acceptable way to secure joists without using additional metal connectors. Assuming you’re using the correct-sized floor joists for your span, the addition of corrosion resistant or stainless steel joist hangers or hurricane ties is an easy way to make your deck flooring system stronger, safer and in compliance with International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC).
Follow the metal connector manufacturer’s recommendations for fastening any metal connector when repairing your deck. My general rule of thumb is to use 16D galvanized nails everywhere I can.
Loose railings, stairs, ledgers or support posts
Decks degrade over time, wood expands and contracts and fasteners can rust or come loose, and all this makes for a potentially dangerous situation. Adding additional support to loose railings or ledgers can easily be accomplished by using ¼” diameter structural screws or thru-bolts to secure the deck from vertical loads. I like the structural screws because they do not require pre-drilling, are corrosion resistant and designed to be used with pressure treated lumber. Thru-bolts should be a diameter of ½” installed through 17/32 to 9/16” pilot holes and have washers at the bolt head and the nut. Make sure you follow manufacturer’s recommendations for fastener length and placement. Watch my video below on structural support when performing deck repair.
Deck ledgers should also have a minimum of two galvanized or stainless steel lateral load connectors (tension ties) connecting the deck joist to the house floor system as seen below. Each device should have an allowable stress design capacity of no less than 1,500 lbs. I use Simpson Strong-Tie deck post connectors on deck installations, repairs and retrofits. These connectors tie the deck to the house and protect against lateral loads resulting from wind, seismic forces or people standing on the deck.
Loose deck support posts should be replaced and the deck frame should be checked to make sure it is still level and the footings have not sunk. Posts should be 4×4 or larger and made from pressure treated material. Post to beam galvanized or stainless steel connectors should be used.
- Joist hangers, connectors and fasteners
- Support posts
- Guard rails and railings