8 Tips for Building a Safe Deck

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Recent news on deck failures and led me to re-evaluate how I build my decks.  Today deck safety is a huge code and liability issue.

Most experts agree that the average life expectancy of a wood deck is 10 to 15 years, but we all know many decks that are still standing and a lot older than that.

It’s estimated that there are millions of decks in the U.S. that are beyond their useful life and may be unsafe. Deck collapses have increased in recent years. Between 2000 and 2008, there were at least 30 deaths reported as a direct result of deck collapses, and more than 75 percent of people on a deck when it collapses are injured or killed.  [source: Universal Forest Products]

If you’re building a safe deck or have an existing deck, you should know how to evaluate its construction to make sure it’s structurally sound and safe. Using the proper building techniques, materials, structural connectors and fasteners, as well as regular maintenance, are key to a safe and strong deck.

Click here for 8 tips to use to evaluate your deck or a client’s deck to see if it is up to today’s safety standards.

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Robert Robillard is the editor of the blog, A Concord Carpenter, Assistant Editor of Tool Box Buzz and principal of a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts. Rob hosts the Concord Carpenter... Read more

6 comments on “8 Tips for Building a Safe Deck

  1. jeff kirk

    good idea to post this topic but i personally think your missing a few things

    not only is having posts properly anchored to piers a big deal but using the correct size post!… i dont know how often i still see people building decks that are supported by 4×4 posts. 4×4 posts dont provide enough bearing for 3ply beams and they arent as strong laterally when decks start getting higher off the ground, they can buckle and snap especially in high wind zones. not only that but proper post connection at the floor framing of hte deck itself.. not so much the support posts but the hand rail posts.. many handyman,. hack carpenters and un knowing diyers notch the post to the outside joists and band joist and simply spike it in place.. leave the post full width spike it in place plumb on the inside of hte ribbon then install blocking around it which completely locks it in place and go one step further and carriage bolt it. i do it this way on all our decks, im 200 lbs and can drive my shoulder into the post for it to MAYBE move 1/4″… do it the way first mentioned and it can move up to 3″

    use of end cut preservative for treating cut ends of the framing stock. the thicker the framing material the less amount of treatment fully penetrates the stock at the plant.. so cutting posts, 2×10’s and 2×12’s leaves more wood that isnt fully treated susceptible to exposure and rot.. for the extra $15 for a can its worth it. last weekend i got a call to replace multiple deck boards that were installed yet were regular spruce… not treated… not a good sign when a 4 yr old deck is already rotting

  2. Beth

    Great tips and suggestions Rob! We did as series of videos on this very subject for HGTVpro.com a few year ago. All of the points you make are the sames ones made by the scientists at VA Tech who study deck failure. Another thing Dr. Joseph Loferski suggested was when building a new deck, build a free-standing deck using a column and girder system both away from the house and right next to the house to provide additional support by using more columns.

  3. Derek Dewitt

    My wife and I are wanting to build a deck soon for this summer, so thanks for sharing this! I had no idea that the average life expectancy of a wood deck is 10 to 15 years. We’ll be sure to buy new wood and replace the deck if we are in the same house after 10 years.

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