The average life expectancy of a wood deck is anywhere from 10 to 15 years. Many decks that have exceeded their life expectancy are still in use, although could be extremely unsafe. Injuries from collapsed decks can be fatal, so properly inspecting and regularly maintaining your deck should be taken with care. Below we’ve included a list of warnings signs and tips to help you recognize when you might be in need of some deck repair.
Corrosion and Loosening of Connectors
Vital connections can become degraded over time due to weather and natural wear and tear. A rusty fastener should be replaced, as it can cause deterioration to the surrounding wood. Be sure to check for any loosened fasteners, including nails, screws, and anchors.
Decaying or Rotting Wood
The life expectancy of a wooden deck is not long. Exposure to the elements – especially a lot of rain – can cause wood to easily rot and degrade over time. The first signs of decay will likely show up in areas of the deck where rainwater puddles. This problem can easily be resolved by replacing planks of wood. However, once the deck frame begins to rot, it’s probably time to rebuild your deck.
A professional inspector checks for rot by using a long screwdriver. You can inspect your deck just by using your finger. Start with areas that are stained or wrinkled. If they are soft or squishy to the touch or start to collapse under the pressure of your finger, the wood is deteriorating and your deck is no longer structurally sound. Be sure to check the wood in several different areas on your deck, paying special attention to areas that often remain damp, are crucial to the structural stability of your deck, or in contact with connectors.
Cracks in the Wood
Cracks in the wood of a deck are very common as the deck ages. Excessive or large cracks can weaken a deck, which in turn makes it more susceptible to collapsing. Even with regularly applying a sealing/preservative coating, cracks still happen, which allows water into the wood causing decay.
Stairs and Railings
Check all railings and banisters to make sure that they are secure and firmly in place. This is especially important the higher your deck is off the ground. Also, inspect that all risers are securely in place and not decayed.
Injuries resulting from deck collapse can be serious, so take care to properly inspect and maintain your deck. Being aware of when your deck needs repair or to be rebuilt will help keep your friends and family safe. If you find that the structural integrity of your deck is compromised beyond a simple repair such that the entire deck needs to be replaced, consider alternative wood products. Materials like Trex decking mimic the look of wood, but hold up significantly longer without many of the issues associated with wooden decks.