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How to Avoid Costly and Potentially Deadly Deck Collapses

Whitehall, PA Deck Collapse (photo credit: KAYLA DWYER / THE MORNING CALL)
Whitehall, PA Deck Collapse (photo credit: KAYLA DWYER / THE MORNING CALL)

Posted on Monday, July 16, 2018
Categories: Decking & Railing  |  Home Maintenance

It is estimated that there are over 20 million decks in the United States that are more than 15 years old. The average healthy life-span of a deck is estimated to be between 10 and 15 years.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 33,000 people per year are injured because of the structural failure or collapse of a deck, porch, railing, or staircase. Six thousand of them suffer traumatic injuries.

Deck construction codes, guidelines, and materials have evolved radically over the past 15 years. Technological advances in fasteners and fastening systems - along with more stringent code requirements - make today’s decks much safer than their predecessors. In many cases, old decks can be easily retrofitted with the new code-compliant fasteners, making them safer.

Carefully inspect your deck annually. Repair what can be repaired, reinforce what needs to be reinforced, replace what needs to be replaced. And when the point comes that the entire deck needs to be replaced… replace it!

Owners of faulty decks or balconies can be sued or even prosecuted criminally.

Annual Deck Inspection should identify, and repair or replace:

  • Loose, corroded or inadequate fastening of the ledger boards and beams
  • Rotted wood
  • Loose, corroded or inadequate fastening of railing posts and rails
  • Rusty or corroded hangers and fasteners
  • Loose, corroded or inadequate fastening of stair stringers and treads
  • Absence of stair risers
  • Loose, damaged, or rotted deck boards

The #1 cause of deck failures in the United States is deck ledgers pulling away from the house due to improper, inadequate, or corroded fasteners.

Modern building codes like the International Residential Code (IRC) strictly prohibit the “use of toenails or nails subject to withdrawal” when making this connection. Thousands of pounds hang on the ledger and, over time as the wood dries and deteriorates, the nails pull away.

Modern building codes are also much more stringent on ensuring that there is proper flashing above, behind, and beneath the ledger board to adequately shed water away from the house to avoid rotted wood and corroded fasteners.

Simpson Strong-Tie Deck Ledger Fasteners

Older decks should be inspected and retrofitted with modern, code-approved ledger fasteners like the Simpson StrongTie DTT1Z or DTT2Z Deck Tension Ties and the Lateral Tension System from FastenMaster. These advanced fasteners provide critical lateral load resistance to the deck by tying the joist of the deck directly to the joist or sill plate of the house or adjacent structure. These should be a standard method of fastening ledgers on all new decks, but should also be used to retrofit and enforce existing decks.

Ledger LokAdditional modern fasteners like the LedgerLok, ThruLok, and HeadLok from FastenMaster - an American-based manufacturer helping the PRO contractor strengthen his or her business - are critical to the proper construction or repair of any deck. This series of high-tech, advanced, code-compliant structural wood screws and innovative fasteners replace traditional lag bolts and through bolts and can be easily used to repair and reinforce connections on existing decks as well as building new decks.

They are engineered to fasten today’s highly-corrosive pressure treated (ACQ) lumber, coated with a proprietary three-step coating process for maximum protection. They also work great on all conventional lumber. The built-in washer head eliminates the need for an additional washer, saving time and money. The large hex-head allows for greater bit engagement, reducing cam-out.

Visit the Simpson StrongTie Deck Center and for complete details on these and dozens of other modern fasteners that make and keep your deck safe.


[News story related to cover photo: "Multiple people injured in Whitehall deck collapse"]

Tagged:decking, outdoor living, reinforcing, deck safety, deck inspection, fasteners, maintenance

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