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Check your deck!

posted: 28/Sep/2015

Coming into the summer months it's important to perform an annual inspection to ensure your deck will safely support your family, friends and visitors. Below are the major considerations you need to take into account when checking to see that the timber and connections are secure.

timber deck safety inspection

Aspects to consider are:

  • Will the deck support about 4 people on each square metre?
  • Will the handrails and connections support 2 to 3 big blokes leaning on it every metre? 
  • If somebody trips and falls against the balusters, will they hold in place?
  • If three prop forwards jumped up and down on the end of a joist, would it dislodge? 
  • What about 4 people per square metre dancing in sync to Tina Turner's "Saltbush City Limit"?
  • These are the type of loads that the Building Regulations (BCA) requires decks be capable of supporting. 
Decay and termites 
  • Joints in particular at handrail connection; joist to bearer connection; bearer to support connection (posts or to house).
Corrosion (rust)
  • Particularly older decks and those near the coast or adjacent/near to swimming pools and spas;
  • Nails, screws, bolts, metal brackets etc. at connection points;
  • Both the exposed to view part of the connection and the part embedded in the timber/steel/concrete if possible. Try and extract some connections to check condition. 
Critical Inspection Points (thumped with a 2 kilo mallet)
  • Bottom rail to post connections; balusters to rail connections; handrail to post connections (if they come loose with a good thump - not good enough);
  • Joists to house and joist to deck bearer connections;
  • Ledger to house connections (a couple of masonry anchors into B/V not suitable. If you can pry the ledger away with a pinch bar its not good enough. Ledgers should be positively fixed to the structural frame [bolts/coach screws etc.]);
  • Bearers to supports;
  • Posts to footings/supports. 
Tools for inspection 
  • Your eyes - see it - decay, termites, corrosion (rust), straightness, gaps;
  • Your feeling - touch and move it - looseness, deflection under force;
  • Your ears - hear it - creaks, cracks, groans;
  • Rubber mallet or hammer - thump it to see if it comes loose or dislodges;
  • Probes - small ended standard screwdriver, stout non-retractable knife and a drill with small diameter (4-6 mm drill bit 150 mm long);
  • Little mirror for seeing into otherwise hidden areas and corners. 
Final advice

If in doubt, secure the area (lock or barricade it odd) and get in an expert to assess and repair.

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