OUTDOOR

Get A Refresher On Deck Safety

April 30, 2015 | STORY BY JENN SCHLEICH | PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENN SCHLEICH

Study Up On These Deck Safety Tips

We spend a lot of time on our decks during the summer months. Unfortunately, decks present a number of safety hazards to your family and friends. It’s important to think critically about your deck design, perform needed maintenance regularly and be conscious of the materials, furniture and chemicals that you use on or near your deck.

"Deck safety is a concern that most homeowners might take for granted.  However, in North America, there have been more than 30 fatalities resulting from deck failure since 2000,” says Stan Weiland of The Deck Store. “Considering many decks in backyards across Canada are more than 20 years old, that number is going to grow.”

When building a new deck remember to educate yourself on your provincial building code and municipal regulations.

“Make sure you use a contractor who knows and understands the building code,” cautions Weiland. “There are also many new materials on the market, not all of which are approved for use in Canada.”

Aside from the potential for slips and falls, be aware of open flames on your deck — don’t forget wood is flammable. Also, remember that overhanging tree limbs and deck/garden related chemicals present a danger to everyone. Trim back trees and keep chemicals locked in a shed away from children and dogs.

PSA: It’s a little-known fact that citronella fuel oil and other torch oils are extremely dangerous to small children. If you plan to have young kids on your deck, think twice about placing citronella oil burners or tiki torches on your patio. If aspirated into the lungs, fuel oil coats delicate pulmonary tissue and can trigger a fatal pulmonary arrest. If swallowed the effects are equally as severe.

Here are some great tips on deck safety from Delta Decks founder Alexander Krupin.

Deck Safety Tips:

  1. Choose a hardy decking material like hardwood decking or composite deck plastics if you aren't going to make maintenance a high priority, to minimize the risk of rot.

  2. Decks under 5'11" in height require a min. 36-inch railing, while decks over 5'11" must have a min. 42-inch railing.

  3. Standard railing designs are included in building codes and are usually wood designs. If you want an aluminum, steel, glass or non-standard railing design, you may need an engineer’s design with a stamp.

  4. LED outdoor lighting can be built into your deck for aesthetic, safety and longevity. Avoid low-quality LED lights, which are likely to fog up, stop working and turn yellow over time.

  5. Don’t forget your building permit. Decks over 100 sq. ft. or over 24 inches in height usually require one.

  6. Visit your municipal building department because they will be the most accurate source for information on bringing your deck to code.

  7. Inspect your deck annually for structural problems and rot, and test railings to ensure they are secure. If you can easily push a screwdriver into the wood, or if it feels spongy or brittle your deck might be decaying.

  8. Replace any rotting or broken deck boards immediately. Look out for corroded or rusting fasteners.

  9. Keep your deck free of leaves and debris and if slippery mildew starts to accumulate, use a pressure washer to thoroughly clean the surface.

Image courtesy of Trex via The Deck Store.

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