How to check your deck for prob­lems

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Sum­mer party sea­son is in full swing, and that means scores of people will be re­lax­ing with fam­ily and friends on their decks. But such gath­er­ings are only as fun as they are safe, and re­spon­si­ble hosts and home­own­ers must in­spect their decks for signs of trou­ble be­fore host­ing their first sum­mer soiree.

Deck in­spec­tions can be rel­a­tively sim­ple, es­pe­cially for those home­own­ers whose decks are newly built or re­cently re­fur­bished. But even a new deck should be in­spected at the start of the sea­son to en­sure the safety of all who will be spend­ing time on the deck in the months to come. The fol­low­ing are a few tips to help home­own­ers spot trou­ble spots on their decks.

• Check the wood. Split or de­cay­ing wood is a trou­ble spot that will need to be ad­dressed. Such wood may feel spongy or break off with­out splin­ter­ing, and those things are in­dica­tive of rot. An­other sign of trou­ble to look for with re­gard to the wood is whether or not it has any holes. Holes may be a symp­tom of in­fect in­fes­ta­tion, which can com­pro­mise the safety of the deck over time.

• In­spect the ledger board. The ledger board is a weight-bear­ing board that con­nects the deck to the house. Over time, the gap be­tween the ledger board and the house may widen. In such in­stances, sim­ply tighten the bolts. When in­spect­ing the ledger board, ex­am­ine the flash­ing that sur­rounds it. Flash­ing pre­vents the buildup of mois­ture that causes rot, and when there is an is­sue with the flash­ing, it’s of­ten no­tice­able be­cause mud and de­bris has be­come stuck be­tween the flash­ing and the ex­te­rior wall of the home. Clear any such de­bris and then seal the over­lap­ping ar­eas with caulk.

• In­spect sup­port posts. Sup­port posts should be firmly con­nected to the beams be­low the deck floor. Loose con­nec­tions be­tween the sup­port posts and beams should be tight­ened, and re­place any bolts that need re­plac­ing.

• In­spect the sur­face. The el­e­ments can be harsh on a deck, so in­spect the sur­face to en­sure there is no buildup of mildew, power

wash­ing any ar­eas where mildew has started to ac­cu­mu­late. Dif­fer­ent deck ma­te­ri­als may need cer­tain types of clean­ers, so con- sult with the com­pany who built your deck or speak to a lo­cal home im­prove­ment specialist to de­ter­mine which type of clean­ing so­lu­tion your deck needs. Once the deck has been power washed, al­low it to dry be­fore ap­ply­ing any additional lay­ers of fin­ish.

• En­sure rail­ings are not loose. Grasp and shake the deck’s rail­ings to en­sure none are loose and all pro­vide am­ple sup­port for any­one who will be en­joy­ing the deck. Balus­ters are the short pil­lars or col­umns that run per­pen­dic­u­lar to the rail­ings and the walk­ing sur­face of the deck, and these should also be checked to en­sure they are not loose. Young­sters may lean against the balus­ters when re­lax­ing on the deck, so it’s im­per­a­tive that none are loose.

Deck in­spec­tions ideally should be per­formed in spring be­fore home­own­ers host their first get-to­gether, and if any prob­lems are dis­cov­ered, ev­ery­one should steer clear of the deck un­til those is­sues have been ad­dressed.

METRO CRE­ATIVE CON­NEC­TION PHOTO

Home­own­ers should pe­ri­od­i­cally in­spect their decks for signs of wear and tear to en­sure their safety and that of their friends and fam­ily mem­bers.

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