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Since 2006, the North American Deck & Railing Association has annually promoted “Deck Safety Month” each spring. The program raises awareness among consumers about the need to inspect their deck and can help them prepare for the outdoor entertaining season. Homeowners and/or past clients who are assessing the safety of their decks may ask a contractor to provide a more thorough inspection.

NADRA has produced a comprehensive, four-page checklist that contractors can use to delineate any concerns found during a deck inspection. This checklist can ensure the homeowner that a thorough investigation of every aspect has been completed and all issues will be addressed.

The checklist notes these eight key areas to be inspected:

1. Ledger Connections. Older decks in particular are susceptible to pulling away from the home if this connection was installed incorrectly or has corroded. Contractors should note the type of connection (lag screw, machine bolt, etc.), its diameter and length, and the material supporting the deck. The deck should connect to a wood rim joist or concrete/CMU, not brick or masonry veneer. Flashing also should be installed above the ledge and behind the exterior cladding.

2. Posts and Footings. Note the post size and type of concrete to post connection. Footings should be should be sunk at least 12 inches into undisturbed ground. Check for signs of decay, corrosion, or other weakening.

3. Post to Beam Connection. Determine if the connection has been bent or modified, which can cause fractures and should be replaced. Also ensure that girders aren’t positioned alongside the posts and connected with a metal fastener (bolt or lag screw) providing the bearing. This is prohibited due to the chances of failure.

4. Joists and Connections. Look for 1½ inch of bearing, as required by code. Nails in ledger strips are subject to withdrawal, and are prohibited by the code. If used, ledger strips should be nailed directly underneath the joist with three or four nails (depending upon the standard). Also look for any modifications to the connections and any signs of corrosion.

5. Stairs. Check that the triangular opening formed by the riser, tread, and guard bottom is less than 6 inches. Also look for corrosion on connections and ensure all are in place and secure.

6. Deck Boards. Be certain that fasteners are tight and recessed. If composite or PVC deck boards are used, check that the spacing meets manufacturers’ guidelines.

7. Railings. Measure railings to be sure they are at least 36 inches tall and ideally 42 inches tall. See what type of shear connection exists between the post and frame. Check that the opening is less than 4 inches between the balusters on the deck and less than 4 3/8 inches on the stairs.

8. Other Areas. Check that all fasteners still have their finish, all connector holes are properly filled, all bolts have washers on the wood side of the connection, etc.

For copies of the evaluation checklist that can be filled out and presented to customers visit: