Did you know that over 45,000 adults and children are injured on decks every year? While it seems like an absurdly high number, it doesn’t even include pets! Decks that are old, rotten, damaged, or otherwise faulty can pose a hazard to your friends and family members, including furry ones.
To prevent deck-related accidents, the International Residential Code sets minimum requirements for safety when constructing a deck. They specify that a deck must have a guardrail if it is over 30” higher than the ground, and the guardrail must be at least three feet or 36”. Balusters must be able to resist 125 lbs of pressure applied horizontally and vertically. Openings in railings must be spaced under 4” so nobody – human or animal – can fall through. Stairs are required to have handrails. All this to say that the proper construction of a deck is paramount to its safety.
Check out this infograph to give you more deets on what’s considered safe for your pup to walk on:
It’s important to consider that since decks are outside, they are subjected to the elements and all sorts of wear and tear. However, some weak points can’t be ignored. If parts of your deck are decaying or you see piles of sawdust falling out from underneath, it could be due to pests (carpenter ants, termites, etc). Look out for large cracks in the wood or patches of discoloration that could signal rot or structural problems. Mold and mildew can cause wood to become slippery and lead to accidents, and can also indicate structural problems. If you see rust on the fasteners, give the deck a thorough inspection, as rusty fasteners can snap and cause accidents. Any wobbling of the deck or the rails should be inspected by a professional, before someone goes to lean on it and they break. A deck can hold up for many years, but it needs to be maintained regularly to be safe.
Pets and kids should generally be supervised when playing outside on the deck. Consider blocking off the stairway with a dog or baby gate. In the summer months, the surface of a deck can heat up just like a sidewalk, so make sure you check the temperature with the back of your hand. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for their paws! If you have a grill, empty the grease trap to deter dogs. Make sure to leave water out for your pets, but note that anything more than 2 inches deep can be a drowning hazard for small children. Finally, get down on your hands and knees and check the deck for splinters, raised nails, and other objects that can snag and cause injury.
Having a deck is an awesome way to enjoy the summer months with friends, family, and pets. Deck accidents are all too common, but you can take measures to keep everyone safe. By following building codes, performing regular inspections, and supervising deck time, you’ll be able to enjoy many more outdoor get-togethers, and make sure no one falls through the cracks.
About the Author:
Real estate company Redfin came up with the Ultimate Deck Safety Guide for maintaining the safety and integrity of your deck for years to come. Read on to learn how to ensure your deck is up to safety code, how to perform a deck inspection, and tips for keeping kids and pets safe while maintaining the life of your deck.