While outdoor decks can be an opportunity for friends and family to gather and enjoy one another’s company, without the proper care and maintenance, it can also become a very dangerous place. On Tuesday, June 16th, six people in Berkeley were killed due to a collapsed balcony from the fifth floor. Sadly, there are a number of reports similar to this one. If the integrity of the deck is compromised from railings to attachments, it is very likely that severe injury and death may occur.
In the case of the recent incident in Berkeley, while officials were unsure of the cause of the collapse, civil and structural engineer Gene St. Onge was called to the scene. After reviewing pictures of the detached balcony, he assessed that the cause of the collapse was due to dry rot from water damage. Specifically, the area where the deck meets the house was covered with dry rot. This is due to poor or no waterproofing. When waterproofing is not done properly, rainwater and other forms of water can enter the building, eventually leading to dry rot. Dry rot damages the wood and causes the deck to lose its strength. While waterproofing the main boards of a deck is often stressed, it is integral to not forget to properly waterproof the area where the deck meets the house as well.
One way to check if your deck is properly sealed is to spill a few drops of water onto your deck. If the water is absorbed, it is not sealed. Instead, you should see that the water beads up and can essentially be rolled off the deck. Also check your deck for signs of dry rot. Often, it will appear as gray mold, but sometimes it will not be as obvious. Sometimes, dry rot will simply make a piece of wood look a little dark than the others. If a piece of wood has dry rot, it will also be a little spongier and not as sturdy as the other pieces of wood. In order to avoid serious injury or even death, be sure to check your deck for dry rot and be sure to have your deck properly waterproofed to prevent future damage.