3. Loose or corroded fasteners: Fasteners on decks include nails, screws, bolts, or anchors. In your inspection insure that all screws and bolts are tight and any nail heads that have popped up should be nailed back into place. Once again, the most important area is the connection of the deck’s ledger board to the house. You should see this connection being secured with bolts, not just nails or screws.
4. Railings and banisters: Three components ensure a safe railing: stability, spaces between the rail components, and rail height. To check your railings keep these code parameters in mind. The rail should be able to withstand a 200 pound force at any point along its top; the spaces in the deck railings should not allow the passage of a 4 inch ball (less than 4 inches); and the deck rail should be a minimum of 36 inches high.
5. Stairs: As with the deck rail, make sure the deck stair rail is stable. Check the connection of the deck stair to the deck. Look for loose wood on the steps or risers that may create a trip hazard. If the step riser (vertical part of step) is open, the opening should be less than 4 inches. As you climb the steps, move your weight from side to side to ensure that the stairs are stable. Finally, make sure the stairs are clear of planters, toys or any other objects that could be a trip hazard.
If after your inspection you have any reason to believe your deck is unsafe, I recommend calling a qualified general contractor to make repairs or a certified home inspector for further evaluation.
A more complete “Deck Evaluation Checklist” is available on the NADRA website at www.nadra.org or you can call NADRA at (888) 623-7248.