Autumn has arrived, and while we still have some lovely weather here in the Delaware Valley Region, the time has come to put away the outdoor furniture. While you are working on your outdoor projects, take time to check your decks and porches for safety. Deck inspection should be done at least once a year, so adding it to your winter preparation routine is a great way to remember.

All outdoor living areas, especially wood decking or composite decking, are exposed to wear and tear from normal use, the weather, and sun exposure. Decks and porches in coastal Delaware have even more damage due to salt air exposure.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that decks and porches can be very dangerous if they are not well maintained for safety. Between 2016 and 2019, the commission reports that there have been 2,900 injuries due to collapses and failures of decks, porches, and balconies.

To keep you and your family safe, let’s go over the basics of what you should look for in an annual deck inspection.

Related Article: Fall Is Time for a Home Maintenance Check-Up

Looking for Rot and Decay

As you do a visual scan of the deck or porch surface, pay close attention to areas that connect to walls or receive a lot of exposure to rain or moisture. If you find a suspicious area, use a screwdriver to probe the surface and determine how far the rot has spread. Make sure to check under any carpets or rugs. Replace rotted planks right away.

Surface discoloration, particularly in areas that don’t get a lot of light, can be cleaned with a bleach-based solution. Mildew growth is typically not a structural danger, but it can create a very slippery surface. If the growth appears fuzzy or sprouts any mushrooms, however, then the deck is likely rotting and will need to be replaced.

If you notice any new sounds like creaking, cracking, or snapping during your inspection, or you feel the surface shift as you move around your deck, you will want to get a professional inspection right away.

Related Article: Three Ways to Protect Your Wooden Deck

Checking for Loose Railings

Look closely at all the components of the railings on decks, porches, balconies, and their stairways. You will be looking again for rot, but you will also be checking for any missing or loose fasteners.

Give each section of the railing a firm push. The expectation is that a substantially-sized person could lean on a railing and only feel a little give or movement. Also, check each stair to make sure they are sturdily attached and not missing any fasteners.

Some deck railings have built-in seating which could hide rot or other areas of concern. Make sure to get close and look under and behind any built-in features.

Getting Underneath!

Get a flashlight and head underneath your deck, porch, or balcony. Look closely at the fasteners that secure the deck to your home. Any signs of rust will need a closer inspection by a professional. Some cracking of deck material is normal, but cracking around fasteners can become a safety issue.

Check for any missing or loose bolts, fasteners, or hangers as well. Pay close attention to the gap between the deck and the house. If there is insect damage, it tends to occur in this area. Is the gap wider than it used to be? Is it farther away at one end than it is at the other?  This could be a sign of movement and is cause for concern.

Checking the Supports

If your deck or balcony is supported by the ground, be sure to check the posts closely where they meet the ground or foundation. You will be looking for rot and checking that the posts or supports have not shifted. Give each support a good push to check for stability.

Upgrade Your Fall Deck Inspection with Advance Inc.

Give your decks, porches, and balconies a thorough inspection at least once a year. A professional deck inspection should be done every 3-5 years, but call an inspector sooner if you notice any issues during your routine check.

Here at Advance Inc, we are happy to help you with making sure all of your decks, balconies, and porches are safe. Check out our blog for more fall routine advice or contact us to connect with one of our professionals.