With our precious summer coming to a close, it’s time for crisp fall breezes and the soon-to-be cozy winter evenings. As you begin to cue the pumpkin spice and hot cider, consider taking the extra steps to prepare your outdoor deck with a thorough inspection for the winter months ahead.
Knowing what to specifically look out for and where exactly to check, you can easily inspect your deck like a pro deck builder.
What to Look For during Your Deck Inspection
As you begin your deck inspection, pay particular attention to three following areas:
- Good Connections—Your connections are areas where materials join together, often with the use of brackets and hardware. All connections should be fully tightened with no exposed space that may suggest loosened screw(s), etc. Sometimes, a simple tightening of your connection hardware is all it takes to stabilize the decking. A weak connection is a safety hazard and jeopardizes the structural integrity of your entire decking.
- Hardware Condition—Your hardware holds a lot of responsibility for your decking, as it makes the connections we mentioned above. Ensuring your brackets, lag screws, bolts, nails, stair stringer brackets, etc., are all present and in good condition is vital to the safety of your outdoor deck. If you notice severely rusted hardware, replace it with new stainless-steel hardware to safeguard the structural integrity of the deck. It’s also equally important to check for warping of hardware, as well. Your brackets, screws, etc., should not give or bend. If there is a bend or dent in any hardware, it’s time to change it out because it’s compromised and will likely continue to bend.
- State of Outdoor Decking Materials—As you look at your decking materials, whether it’s wood, composite, metal, etc., check for signs of deterioration, warping, cracking, or rot. Your deck flooring, support beams, joists, railings, stairs, and ledger beams may be exposed to moisture, pests, and harsh weather conditions, so the state of these materials must be dutifully inspected. If you notice any holes, cracking or crumbling of your materials, it’s time for immediate replacement. It may be helpful to use a tool, like a screwdriver or a small pry bar, to help you test for softened material, and to protect your hand for encountering potential pests, mold, etc.
Where to Look during Your Deck Inspection
Regardless of what deck design or decking material you have, there are two major areas that require thorough inspection:
Support & Framework
The support and framework determine how structurally sound your decking is, which is why it’s important to frequently inspect the condition of all the components that support your decking. To inspect your outdoor deck, carefully examine the following decking components to ensure stability:
- Ledger—This is a support beam that supports and attaches your deck to your house or building. This is arguably one of the most crucial areas to check during your inspection, and it should always be tight against the house.
- Flashing—This is often a metal material that shields the ledger from exposure to moisture, etc. You should be able to see it underneath your deck, hanging over the ledger board, and it’s often attached underneath the siding that’s directly above your decking.
- Support Beams and Footings—Support beams are the legs of your decking that disperse the weight load across the area, and your footings are how those legs stay anchored in the ground, typically with poured concreate and anchoring brackets.
- Joists—Your decking framework is made up of several different joist beams that attach to support beams. It’s also what your deck flooring will attach to. They are attached to the ledger, end joists, and support beams by joist brackets.
- Stairs—Staircases are typically attached to an end joist using a stringer bracket that’s designed specifically for stairs.
Decking & Railing
Your decking and railing are the parts of your outdoor deck that you see most often, and they typically receive a lot of beating from general wear and tear. Despite the fact that deck flooring and railing are more visible as you spend more time looking at them, they still require a thorough inspection. Having wobbly deck railings or floorboards that move when you walk on them are safety hazards that need to be addressed quickly to avoid injury.
Maintenance-Free Decking Supplies and Professional Inspections
As we head into winter, take the time to ensure your outdoor deck is in good condition to brave the bitter months ahead. If you notice some concerns during your inspection, our UglyDeck.com team can help you determine the best course of action. Your safety is our number one priority. Whether you’re in need of a new deck rail, joist replacement, or total deck replacement, our expert Twin Cities deck builders are here for you at every step of the way, from professional consultation to quality product recommendations.