How to check if your deck is safe

It’s summertime, so many of you may be out on the deck grilling or enjoying the hot tub. But is your deck safe enough to support everyone?

This weekend three people were hurt when a deck holding four people collapsed at an apartment in Paducah. One person had to undergo surgery Sunday and is now at home recovering. That person told Local 6 the renter has a crushed ankle and will need reconstructive surgery. A third woman who fell has a broken bone. The fourth person on the deck walked away with no injuries. West Park Village Apartments said the Paducah City Inspector came to the complex, and they’re willing to do whatever is needed to keep residents safe.

TruBlue of Western Kentucky Lead Handyman Jeremy Shaw took Local 6 to a deck they recently inspected on Monday. He says most deck collapses happen from lack of support underneath.

“They say take a flat head screwdriver, stick it in there [the beam]. If it’s more than a quarter of an inch, which that’s almost an inch, then you need to have a technician or somebody who builds decks all the time to come out and make sure that its solid and doesn’t need to be replaced,” Shaw said.

Sagging boards are also a sign that it needs replacement. “It’s got cracks in it or the waters gotten to it,” Shaw said.

Green coloring under your deck could be a sign of mold.

“Pressure washing helps remove that and keep it from getting worse than what it is,” Shaw said.

Also, check for rust, especially where your deck connects to a wall.

“On the edge of the house, you need to look for the ledger boards to make sure that they’re properly secured to the house. If you see any rust or anything that looks out of place, you might want someone to come and look and make sure it’s secure,” Shaw said.

These are all factors that could lead to weak deck and a possible collapse.

A way you can check if there too many people on a smaller deck without support is done by an elbow test. If everyone holds their hand out bent into their bodies with their elbows sticking out and end up touching each other, then that probably means there’s too many people on that deck. 

As far as decks with support, Shaw suggests going by the rule of 50 pounds per square foot.

If you have a hot tub on your deck, Shaw says its imperative to make sure it was built to support it.

“It may sit here and be fine with nobody in it, but you go to putting four to six people in it, you’re adding anywhere, let’s say, 700 to 1,500 pounds depending on how many people and whatnot. You’re adding a lot of weight to an already existing heavy product,” Shaw said.

Shaw says heavy rain can wear on your deck more, too, because the moisture makes the deck a little heavier. He suggests checking your deck at least twice a year.

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