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How Safe is Your Deck?

One of the best things about spring is taking advantage of the warmer weather and enjoying the great outdoors. For some, this means fishing, hiking trails and spending time at parks. For others, however, it means simply sitting on their deck and enjoying a nice evening. While this may seem like a safer and more convenient alternative to experiencing nature, there could be some potential hazards you need to be aware of, especially if your deck is older or was not built by professionals. Here are some things you should look for if you or your family will be out on the deck this spring.

Splintering Boards

If your deck is made of wood, it is essential that you maintain its condition every year. Changes in weather can significantly impact its durability. One common problem occurs when boards are weathered and begin to split and stick up, causing potential cut or tripping hazards.  It’s important to wear proper footwear and replace boards that could be splintering.

Hand Rails

Over time, hand rails can become less and less secure as the nails and screws originally installed work themselves out. Changing weather and varying temperatures are to blame here, as warmer weather expands the wood, leaving more room for the nails and screws to move. Be sure to test the stability of the hand rails. They should not wobble or bend and if they do, it might be time to replace them.


Much like hand rails, stairs can lose strength and durability as they become weathered or used extensively. If not properly secured, stairs can become serious tripping hazards, especially for younger children. This is why it is important to be able to understand what to look for. If the stairs bend when you walk up/down them, or there are any splits in the wood, it is definitely worth addressing.

Support Posts

Often times, the largest threat to the safety of your deck depends on the stability of the supports that hold it up. Many people are not aware that, aside from weather, insects can be the biggest threat to the safety of a deck structure. Termites and carpenter ants are examples of insects that can do the most damage to wooden structures and if you feel like you may have an infestation near your deck, it may be worth calling a pest control professional. Multiple small holes in posts/fixtures could be indicative that insects are burrowing in the wood.

If wood is splitting or decaying, inspect it with a flathead screwdriver by inserting it into the cracks/splits. If you can place it ¼ inch or more into the wood, or if the wood has a spongy consistency, this could be a sign of rotting.


While there are several components of a deck that are more easily recognized at first glance, it is important to also consider some elements that are more concealed. Nails, screws and fasteners are among these components, as they play a significant role in the safety and stability of the deck. Many decks that were built before the 80’s were supported using nails alone, which is problematic because they do not have the “teeth” that modern day fasteners and screws do. This means that over the years, it is easier for each nail to loosen, causing boards and support structures to become unstable. If you think your deck may fall under this category, contact a local contractor to be sure this will not become an issue.

The truth is, you do not need to be a construction expert to know what to look for when it comes to inspecting your deck. It is always important to use your best judgement and if something does not look right, address it as soon as possible. If you are unsure about something, be sure to consult with a professional.

Some of the best memories are created in your own backyard or, in this case, on your deck. Make sure your family is safe and has the proper protection.

by Nick Samsel