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By Simpson Strong-Tie

Decks seem relatively simple to build but many people don’t realize that decks are structures that need to resist specific loads. Similar to a house, decks must be designed to support the weight of people and objects placed on them, as well as the natural forces that will affect the structure of the deck itself.

There are five basic steps that every homeowner should follow when it comes to making sure your deck is safe and that it can properly support your family and friends: 


Check Out Your Deck

The first step in making your deck safe is to know that it might not be. According to some experts, decks are potentially the most dangerous part of the house. Factors such as improper construction, exposure to the elements and lack of maintenance can make your deck unsafe. It’s important to look for the warning signs, including rot, corrosion and loose connections. If you are unsure about the safety of your deck consult a professional, such as a structural engineer or contractor, or book a deck inspection with a certified deck inspector.



Carry the Weight

For most homeowners, the deck is a popular gathering place for friends and family. Like a house, a deck must be designed to support the weight of people and objects placed on it, as well as the forces of Mother Nature, like wind, snow and earthquakes. Knowing how weight and other forces can affect the safety of your deck is important.

There are
 (3) types of forces that put pressure on
 your deck, causing strain to the critical
 connections that keep it together:


       i.         Gravity: Downward pressure typically caused from people standing on the deck, or snow and ice.

      ii.         Lateral: A back and forth (horizontal) motion caused by people walking on the deck and/or leaning on a railing. Wind and earthquakes can also create lateral movement.

     iii.         Uplift: Wind flows under the deck creating a lifting effect. People standing on the overhang of the deck also create upward pressure on the connection that attaches the deck to the adjacent support structure, which is typically 
your home. 




Create a Path

A continuous load path is a method of construction that uses metal connectors to create 
a series of solid connections within the structure of the deck. This path transfers the load or weight of the deck through its frame and into the ground and adjacent support structure (typically your home). If your deck is built with a continuous load path, it will be better equipped to resist the forces that can weaken your deck.



Combat Corrosion

Decks and the metal hardware that keeps them connected are exposed to the elements every day. Over time, metal connectors, screws and nails can corrode and weaken the structure of your deck, especially if the right products aren’t used properly. If you live in an area prone to moisture the risk of corrosion is much higher. Chemicals in pressure-treated woods and other corrosive elements can also damage your deck. Using connectors, screws and nails made from stainless steel is the best way to combat corrosion. When choosing connectors, take into account where you live and how the weather and the environment can affect your deck.




Maintain a Safe Deck

Just like other parts of your home, regular maintenance and inspections are required to keep your deck safe. To help prolong its life, check regularly for things like loose boards or protruding nails. You should also keep your deck clean from debris, and depending on the type of deck boards used, keep them sealed to protect against water and sun damage.




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