Outdoor Decking: 10 Important Areas to Check

Overview

Decking’ is a structure that is built on the outside of your home for walking or sitting. Care for decking also includes other structures outside of your home, such as: porches, stairs, railings with bars called ‘balustrades’, trellises, gazebos, and swing sets.

Decking may be made from a variety of materials such as: softwood; hardwood; composite materials; and metal.

Routine Care

Inspect decking for deterioration

The purpose of doing this task is that a deck that has been allowed to deteriorate can cause serious injuries by allowing people to fall, trip, etc.

Timing: May (yearly)

Clean and seal deck surfaces

Cleaning and sealing your decking will help extend its useful life.

Timing: May (yearly)

How To

Inspect decking for deterioration

  • Inspect all outdoor wooden structures for signs of wear and deterioration. Use a screwdriver or wood awl to probe for soft spots.
  • Check the handrails, spindles, and other railing supports to ensure they can hold the weight of a large person leaning against them.
  • Check the deck flooring for boards that have split, warped, or came loose.
  • Check stairs by carefully applying weight on each step.
  • Tighten any nuts and bolts.

Clean and seal deck surfaces

Depending on your type of wood, cleaning and sealing decks typically requires 3 steps:

Day 1: Sweep off all dirt and debris; allow surfaces to dry.

Day 2: Spray on an oxalic acid solution; allow to sit per the manufacturer’s recommendation, then hose off with water.

Day 3: Apply a good sealant.

Benefits

Maintaining Value

Appearance

Avoiding Unscheduled Repairs

Child Safety

The benefits of this task are that it maintains the appearance and extends the useful life of your decking and help reduce potential safety hazards.

Costs

The cost of inspecting the deck for deterioration is relatively low. It is estimated that this task should take about 30-60 minutes to complete, depending on the size and style of your decking. You will need a screwdriver or wood awl, a flashlight, and wrenches to complete this task.

The cost of cleaning and sealing deck surfaces is relatively high from an investment of time standpoint.

 

 

Outdoor Decking: 10 Important Areas to Check

Outdoor decking creates a great place for gathering with friends and family to enjoy your yard during nice weather. This article and video explains the 10 areas that you should inspect each year to ensure that your deck is safe and will continue to last a long time.

 

Regardless of the type of deck material that you have, each year you should do a thorough inspection of your outdoor decking to ensure that it is safe for your family and friends. Here are the ten areas that we suggest that you include as part of your annual decking inspection.

1. Check for splitting, warping and rotting.
Boards on your deck which have begun to split or warp will create tripping hazards, and further, they can be a sign that your deck is not being properly maintained for protection against moisture. Lack of protection from moisture allows the wood to swell and then shrink, which leads to splitting and warping. If you see splitting and warping this could mean that your wood does not have the proper stain/sealant (and we’ll be discussing how to do a simple “Splash Test” later), or it could mean that you do not have proper drainage of water away from your deck. But if left un-repaired, this situation could result in the wood deteriorating to the point where it affects the structural integrity of your deck, creating a significant safety problem for you. When you are doing your inspection, use a strong screwdriver or wood awl to explore any soft areas for wood rot, and keep an eye out especially for any signs of bugs boring into your wood.

2. Look for signs of mold and mildew.
Mold, mildew, and rot can be caused by a number of factors. It could be from water not draining properly from your deck, or it can be caused by the type of oil-based stain that you are using, which actually acts as a food source for molds and algae. In addition to being unsightly, mold and mildew can create slipping hazards and can lead to rotting that can ruin your deck.

3. Check water drainage around your deck.
Sealing or staining your deck will provide some protection of your decking again moisture, but without proper drainage of water away from your deck, your deck can still be damaged by moisture. You will want to be sure that your decking has the proper pitch to keep water from standing on your boards. And you will want to be sure that roof gutters are not blocked and allowing water to splash onto your deck. Also, you will want to be sure that the ground underneath your deck is graded properly to have water drain away from your deck.

4. Conduct a “Splash Test.”
For wooden decks, a “splash test” is a simple test to see if your wood is being properly protected against moisture. All you need to do is to splash some water on your deck boards, and then wait 15 minutes to see if the water beads up, or if it absorbs into the wood. If it absorbs into your wood, then your deck needs to be re-sealed / re-stained to give it the necessary protection against moisture.

5. Check for loose nails or screws on the deck.
Walk around your deck with a hammer (or screwdriver if your boards are screwed down), and fix any places where the nails or screws have started to come up. Loose nails or screws create tripping and safety hazards (see costs and reviews of hammers).

6. Check railings/ balustrades.
An important safety feature of your deck is its railings and balustrades. You should check all of them to be sure they are still strong and firmly attached. Any that are loose should be fixed immediately.

7. Check support posts.
Check for any for loose connections between posts and the deck’s beams. Tighten any bolts as needed.

8. Check flashing and ledger boards.
Flashing is the sheet metal where your deck meets the walls of your home, and it is there to deflect water to keep it away from the ledger boards which attach your deck to your house. Repair or re-caulk any damaged flashing, and if you can get under your deck, check your ledger boards for bolts which need to be tightened, signs of rotting, etc.

9. Check the electrical sockets on the deck.
If you have outdoor electrical sockets near your deck, these should all be protected by ground fault interrupters (“GFI”). You should press the buttons on the GFI to test that they are operating properly, and if not, they should be immediately repaired.

10. Check trees hanging over the deck.
And finally, if you have trees overhanging your deck, you might want to consider cutting back their limbs to help reduce sap stains and reducing the risks of limbs falling down on your deck.

SUMMARY

Hopefully, this article and video have helped you to understand how to inspect your outdoor decking to ensure that it will be safe for your family and friends and that it will continue to last for a long time.

 

Originally posted at http://www.petermuehlbronner.home-wizard.com/idea/DKG_10

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