A deck or balcony can be the perfect place for relaxing or entertaining at home, but it also has the potential to be one of the most dangerous. In fact, recent estimates indicate about 12,000 homes across the country are dangerous structures. Deck safety is a crucial, though often overlooked, aspect of home ownership.
What Factors Negatively Affect Deck Safety?
While there are myriads of factors which can contribute to unsafe deck and balcony conditions, there are some common indicators of danger for which homeowners should be on the lookout.
- Insects – The activity of insects like European House Borers and termites can drastically compromise the integrity of most structures. This includes decking and balcony areas.
- Water Damage and Moisture – Excessive moisture, especially as a result of insufficient drainage, can cause wooden timbers to deteriorate. Wet rot most often occurs when wooden structures are in constant contact with wet areas of soil or standing water.
- Excessive Loading – Any structure has its limits, and a balcony is no exception. A focus on deck safety will require homeowners to carefully consider the weight of water features, large pieces of furniture and also the collective weight of too many people.
Signs of Damage or Disrepair
Wooden decks and balconies can last for more than twenty years, but are only safe if they’re properly maintained. Keep an eye out for these common signs of damage and disrepair to ensure the safety and structural integrity of balcony and deck structures on your property.
- Bending or warping timber
- Timber discoloration and damp patches
- Soft or spongy wood
- Rotting or loosening handrails and balustrades
- Standing water at the base or supports
Concrete decks, patios and balconies have an estimated life of 40 to 50 years, but should also be regularly examined for signs of damage. While sources of potential trouble can be more difficult to spot in concrete structures, there are still some common indicators for which homeowners should be looking.
- Rusting or exposed steel reinforcements
- Leaning or signs of deflection
- Loose, corroded or damaged handrails and balustrades
- Spalling, or flaking and cracking concrete
Make Deck Safety a Priority
Structural damage to decks and balconies can result in tragic consequences, which is why its of vital importance for homeowners to be vigilant about deck maintenance and repair. If you’re purchasing a new property which features a deck, are considering the addition of a deck to your property or simply have concerns about the structural integrity of an existing deck or balcony, it’s wise to consult a professional to have those concerns addressed. Qualified and reputable building inspectors can help you to uncover areas of potential concern, making your deck a safe and secure place to entertain or relax at the end of a long day.
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