Decks and balconies aren’t used only for Summer parties; they often welcome guests during the holiday season too. Every year, there are a surprising number of reported horrific accidents, where such have actually collapsed, resulting in serious injuries and even death. Therefore, regular deck /balcony safety inspections should be of the highest priority to any responsible home owner.
We’d like to relate a story of a past client who hired us to do a general condition check of his home. We discovered a number of important repairs needing immediate attention – including the rotten back stairs off the deck. Several months later, he happened to meet and he was asked how things were going? He answered, while groaning and wincing in obvious pain, that he had foolishly not heeded our warning to NOT USE THE BACK STAIRS UNTIL REPLACED.
Consequently, those stairs had completely collapsed beneath him and he fell hard on top of all a pile of sharp debris and the family bicycles stored beneath. This accident left him badly bruised and sore but lucky to have avoided more serious injury.
Building codes for decks, porches and balconies require them to support at least 40 pounds per square foot. This means that a balcony packed with partygoers ‘should’ be safe as long as there’s enough room to allow moving around. The larger the number of people gathering to socialize the greater the danger of deck collapse – due to what is known as the “live load”. That is why proper plans, building permits, inspections and adhering to codes are so important. However, as decks age, due to exposure to the elements, even properly built structures can become unsafe. Over time, wooden boards will weather and rot due to the ravages of Mother Nature and hungry insects. Gate fasteners and railings will eventually become loose and unsafe as well.
A weakened and rotting deck is a potential “disaster waiting to happen”. So be sure to check your deck /balcony now for safety’s sake and to limit exposure to legal liability!
If you’re not sure what to look for, consider a Safety Inspection by a professional Home Inspector so you can Love your home.