Better Business Bureau Consumer Protection BC

   

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DECKS and BALCONIES

Safety first! To maintain your home in good repair the following guide will help keep you and your decks and balconies in good repair. We have identified five areas of concern: the deck itself, the rails around the deck, the stairs, the support structure and the overhead roof.

DECKS

Deck materials include treated/preserved wood, fiberglass, vinyl, concrete, or synthetics. These are the most common for home applications.

The physical appearance of the deck surface will usually tell you if something is amiss. Simply walk up the steps holding onto the handrail from bottom to top, walking along the outer perimeter, noting the condition of the uprights between the posts, the feeling of soundness of the flooring, the steadiness of the rail connections and the connections to the exterior wall. Note the condition of the connection of the flashing of the wall onto the top of the deck itself. Note if there is any water left on the deck after a 24-hour period. This may be a soft spot in the making or that the slope has changed somewhat.

The most important aspect of the deck is the underside. This is bar none the highest area of problems. If the underside is enclosed an effort must be made to open up several areas to determine the condition. Ventilation under the deck is of prime importance in controlling and eliminating water/moisture. Out of sight-out of mind, these conditions can create a disaster in the making. Water/moisture damage, lack of maintenance, missing wood members, posts out of alignment, posts not supported, posts buried in the ground, posts not painted/stained or undersized are conditions that are found. The connection to the main building is either through bolted, lag bolted or part of the main structure itself. Joist hangers should be galvanized and have all the holes nailed. All fasteners in exposed areas should be galvanized. Angled supports must be well anchored and free of rot and knots. Pressure treated posts may be left unpainted if desired. All posts should be elevated off the ground.

RAILS

The railing and their associated connections (brackets, lag bolts through bolts etc.) are of utmost importance. These must be in good condition at all times. Note any loose areas. All openings must not allow a 4-inch or larger sphere (e.g. a clenched fist) to pass through. All wood surfaces should be well painted or stained to prevent the onset of rot. Maintain the proper height above the deck surface, usually at elbow height of an adult person.

STAIRS

Check the overall condition ensuring that the structure is sound, properly supported, well painted/stained, has a separation between the bottom stair support and the gravel/concrete/cement block base. Usually this is either a metal bracket or building felt. All wooden members should be free of rotten areas, knots, splits, wobbly treads and loose handrails. The handrails should be well secured and easily grasped. More than three steps must have a handrail installed. Stairs leading to an upper floor should have a support installed halfway for stability. Check the connection of the upper connection to the deck as poor nailing/screwing is often found here and check for any rotted areas.

Look for evenness of the treads by sighting from the deck level downward. All treads should be within one/quarter of an inch of each other. The best treads are seven inches high by eleven inches deep. Stairs wider than three feet should have handrails on both sides. Childproof gates are recommended at the top and bottom for added safety.

ROOFS

Roofs pose less problems but care still has to be taken to ensure their overall condition. All roofs must be monitored for snow loads. As an example: six inches of wet snow on a one hundred fifty square foot surface weighs over one ton. The metal style poses the least problems and the fiberglass homeowner built the most problems. Clean moss buildup at least yearly, remove all tree needles/leaves, replace any rotted/missing members and keep the main roof to deck roof well painted/sealed at all times. Keep all wood areas well painted/sealed at all times as well. Note the condition of gutters, downspouts and the drain connections.

We recommend that a construction/retrofit tradesperson do all tasks as they offer quality materials, proper installation requirements and a written guarantee.

Know that, for peace of mind, the care and attention you give your home will serve you well year after year and in comfort.