Whether you’re a new homeowner inheriting a “new-to-you” outdoor deck or you’ve lived in the same home for years, performing an annual inspection of both your decking and railing will ensure your outdoor structures are safe and reliable, so you can focus on making more outdoor memories with the ones you love. As you begin surveying your outdoor decking status, there are 5 easy-to-spot warning signs that will show you it’s time to invest in a deck railing replacement.
The first thing you want to assess is the structural integrity of your deck rail. Afterall, your deck railing provides key support and protects you and your loved ones from falling. Regardless if you have wood deck rails, metal deck rails, etc., you want to first ensure your railings aren’t wobbly or shaky. If you grab your deck railing and give it a shake, it shouldn’t budge. If you notice some give—or a lot of give—your railing is unsteady and no longer able to perform its essential job. In some cases, a simple tightening of some hardware could solve the problem. If it doesn’t, it’s time to check for other factors that may be causing your railing to require a replacement.
Depending on your decking material, you may need to check for rotting deck rail, often caused by moisture, pests, etc. By looking closely at your support posts, top and bottom rails, and spindles, check for signs of rot, especially for wood deck rails or other materials susceptible to rotting. You may notice sawdust beneath your railing that would suggest potential pest damage or darkening of wood with a soft or sponge-like feel that would suggest damage from moisture. Any sign of rotting materials is a sure sign that it’s time to replace your deck rail, as the natural fibers that make your material sturdy are now compromised.
It’s important to check the condition of your hardware, as well. Your hardware consists of brackets, screws, washers, etc. that ensure your deck rail is properly attached to the decking and supported. Deck railing hardware is often exposed to harsh weather conditions and sun exposure, and it’s common to see these materials begin to rust. Since hardware is designed to hold and support the weight load, rusting will severely weaken your hardware, making it prone to snapping and breaking. If you notice any of your hardware missing or rusting, immediately replace them to confirm your railing is secure.
As you are closely going over your railing materials, pay attention to whether your material is cracking, splintering or warping, most often associated with wooden materials. This is typically a sign that the material has not been properly maintained. For example, wood materials require frequent treatments and sealants to help protect it from moisture penetration, sun exposure and temperature variations. As soon as a material cracks or warps, it’s structural integrity rapidly declines and can no longer serve as deck railing to offer support and protection.
While railing spindles or balusters seem to just offer style to your decking, they do serve a purpose; spindles protect us from falling or slipping, which is why there are building and safety code requirements that dictate the spacing and measurements needed to guarantee any given deck railing can offer the needed support. If you notice your deck rail has broken or missing spindles, you put yourself and your loved ones at a greater risk of injury. Especially for a family with small children or pets, missing or broken spindles indicate that your deck railing needs some immediate TLC.
While you can perform your own deck inspection, it may be helpful to bring in a professional deck contractor to verify the structural integrity of your entire deck—especially if it is new to you—as deck builders know the local building and safety code requirements and are trained to spot signs of deterioration. If you’re unsure if your decking or deck railings need to be replaced, be proactive, and seek the help of a professional deck builder.
At UglyDeck.com, your family’s safety is our biggest priority. If it’s time for a deck rail replacement or an entire deck renovation, our deck contractors are here to help simplify any part of the process for you and to make sure you aren’t in it alone, offering support for you at every part of the process by recommending quality products like our maintenance-free Westbury aluminum deck railings, assisting you in designing a new outdoor deck, and professionally installing your customized decking designs. Contact us today, and let us know how we can help offer you peace of mind and provide you and your family with decking and railing you can trust!