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Before you entertain this summer, include a maintenance check as part of your warm-weather cleaning
Whenever I read about another deck accident in the news, it always breaks my heart. Why? Your deck should be part of your backyard oasis. It should be a safe place where you can host family and friends, and grill up a couple of steaks.
Often, deck accidents can be avoided, but it takes a little homeowner know-how to know what to look for. If you’re completely green about this stuff, there’s nothing wrong with calling in a pro to inspect your deck for you. If it takes a pro to give you peace of mind, it’s never a waste of money.
Remember, your outdoor structures need love and care, too. So don’t think that once you’ve built your deck, you don’t have to do anything to keep it strong. Before you entertain this summer, make sure your spring cleaning includes a thorough deck check. Here’s where you begin.
Your deck may look simple, but it’s a pretty impressive feat of engineering that takes a lot of smarts to build right. The important connection points: your ledger board, your joists, stairs, and more need to be inspected for safety.
The ledger board is a small part of your deck that plays a big role. The ledger board runs the length of the deck and connects it to the home — and a weak connection is a common cause of deck failure. Your deck’s job is to support a lot of weight, so that ledger board better be bolted in tight. Not with nails or screws, but bolts.
Also check for visible signs of rot. Take a hammer and screwdriver and tap it around where the joists fasten into the ledger board. If the screwdriver sinks into the wood, that means it’s rotting and needs to be replaced before you use the deck.
Do you have any loose boards or wobbly guardrails on your deck? Those may seem minor, but all it takes is a little pressure from someone leaning on it and you could have a serious accident on your hands. Ensure the rails are fastened to the rim joist as well as tied back to the joist framing. If secured with a metal connector and some good bolts, you shouldn’t have a problem.
If you spot any deck boards that are starting to rot, you’ll want to replace them quickly. Remember, dry rot can spread if left unattended. But if you get to it quickly enough, you may be able to save yourself from replacing all the deck boards.
If everything seems structurally sound, give your deck a good spring cleaning to eliminate the dirt and grime it accumulated over the long winter months.
Here’s a question I get asked a lot: is it safe to use your barbecue on your deck? The answer to that is yes — but you still need to take some precautions. Keep the grill a couple of feet from the house, as well as any guardrails and high-traffic areas. Don’t place the barbecue under any overhangs or tree branches. Purchase a fire mat underneath your grill. This handy object will protect your deck from the heat that radiates from your barbecue.
Give the deck a good sweep before you grill. If a spark flies, striking any leaves or debris, you run the risk of combustion. Finally, always make sure you have fire extinguisher handy in case of emergencies.
However, if your deck was recently treated with a sealant, or stain, it could be more flammable. In that case, it’s probably best to set your grill on a level concrete area in your yard that’s a few feet from the house.
My deck is my go-to hub for summer entertaining. But I never invite guests over before I’ve done my yearly deck check. It’s personally important that me and my guests are safe while we’re celebrating. Don’t skip your yearly deck maintenance — I don’t want to next hear about your deck in the news.
Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca .
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