When it comes to having a fun family get-together in the summer, an outdoor deck is always a great addition. Raised decks often ensure more room for guests and allow everyone to enjoy the great weather and evenings outside. However, without proper maintenance, these decks can be the source of serious injury and in many cases, even death. Because of this, it is imperative to have experts that know exactly how to inspect your deck to ensure the safety of you, your family, and friends.
One key element that is often cited as being the cause of a deck collapsing is the connections between the pieces of wood. Often, nails are used, but nail connections can often be a problem because they are easy to pull out. The US Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin undertook a study where they looked at 5 years of newspaper articles all on deck collapses. Their investigation concluded that nearly all of the decks that had collapsed in that 5-year time span had been connected with nails. Instead of nails, it is often suggested to use bolts to connect your deck. This is because bolts offer more strength from the wedging action of the wood fibers along the entire length of the bolt. They also resist the expansion and contraction of wood much better than a nail can. Decks connected with bolts are often better because there are warning signs when the bolts begin to loosen. For example, the space between the deck and the house will increase yet with nails, there are no warning signs.
If you have a raised deck, it is also important that your rails are inspected and up to code because there have been incidents where an improperly attached rail gave way, leading to deaths. Another issue, regardless of whether nails or bolts are used or if your deck is up to code, is the issue of rotting wood. It doesn't matter how well your deck is connected if the wood is rotten. This is because the connection will be weak and the wood will not be able to withhold the weight of all your guests. In order to avoid this, it is recommended to have your deck checked by certified inspectors every few years so you can be sure that you properly maintain deck.