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Deck Failure

Deck Failure

In January of this year, a deck collapse at a home in Waves sent three people to the hospital. In 2016, another deck collapse injured several people in Salvo. The year before that, there were two similar incidents in Emerald Isle. The worst of these involved 24 family members who had gathered on a deck for a family photo overlooking the ocean.

At least two of the decks were built prior to 1990 and did not meet the current NC Building Code. The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) estimates that there are 40 million decks in the U.S. that are over 20 years old. Older decks are at additional risk of failure in a coastal, high-wind environment.

One of the most common problems I see is deck railings that are inadequate. 4x4 posts are often notched and nailed to the deck band, which is a very weak connection. 4x4 posts should be through-bolted inside the deck band. Pickets should not be nailed to the outside of the deck band or rim joists, but should be attached to 2x4 rails running horizontally between the posts.

Improperly fastened ledger bands are also common on the Outer Banks. The ledger band is a primary framing member that should be through-bolted at the house band to create a strong structural connection to the house framing. It is not uncommon to see bands that are simply nailed or improperly bolted. When a deck separates from the house, the result can be catastrophic.

Improper flashing can lead to wood rot and eventual failure. Often times wood rot can’t be seen until it’s become pervasive. If you see signs of wood rot on your window and door trim, it’s possible that your wall framing and deck framing could be affected.

Like any other component of your house, decks require maintenance and periodic inspections. The amount of extreme heat, violent storms, and salt spray can take a toll on decks. Rusty fasteners will fail over time. It’s a good idea to inspect all structural connections on your deck every year. Look for corroded bolts, nails, and hangers.

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