Recent deaths in the U.S. that were caused by collapsing decks were primarily triggered by loose or improperly installed ledger boards. It’s vital that you know if your deck’s ledger board is properly installed, so that a summer barbeque with your family and friends doesn’t have a tragic ending.
At MN Contractor Pros, we understand how important it is to install safe, structurally sound decking in your backyard. We’ve helped hundreds of homeowners in the Twin Cities Metro area transform their lifestyle with beautiful decking. We understand how frustrating low-grade decking materials can be. That’s why we choose only the highest caliber decking materials and install them to perfection. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your deck was installed properly and is sound structurally.
Do an Annual Visual Inspection of Your Deck
You don’t have to be a professional to spot trouble with your deck. Grab a flashlight, and take a comprehensive look at your current deck. Do a visual inspection of it each year before your first barbeque. If you spot trouble, fix it or hire a professional carpenter to repair it. If you think there are serious problems with your decking, contact a licensed engineer to both inspect it and provide the proper solution for your decking problem.
Since improperly installed ledger boards are the main cause of deck collapses, do a thorough check on them! Here are some tips on how to examine your ledger board to verify it is safe structurally:
Check for Improperly Installed Ledger Board
Your deck’s ledger board is the long, horizontal, pressure-treated board that supports your deck if it is attached directly to your home. Each floor joist’s end is fastened to the ledger by a metal hanger. The tragic collapses some people experience on their decking occurs because the ledger isn’t fastened to the home properly. Other causes include badly decayed ledger board. If there’s not a continuous length of metal flashing along your ledger, water can seep behind it and rot it, making it unstable.
Since ledger board failure is the top cause of deck collapse, it should be inspected with extra care. Most decks aren’t totally freestanding; they are attached to homes by their ledger board—and failure in the ledger board can be devastating.
In older decks, the ledger board was usually simply face-nailed to the rim joist. More recent codes require lag screws or carriage bolts to be used. Today, there are special brackets that extend into the house, giving a solid connection from the home’s floor joists through the rim and ledger boards to the deck joists.
Verify Your Deck Has Flashing
Flashing should reach behind your home and overlap the highest edge of your decking’s ledger. If your deck doesn’t have flashing, and it runs parallel to your home, install one by prying up a row of decking and replacing the deck boards with it. If your deck is perpendicular to your dwelling, raise each deck board to expose the ledger.
If your decking’s ledger is cracked or split, it should be replaced for the safety of you and your family. Make sure the ledger is securely bolted with lag screws or carriage bolts against your house. They should be fastened into solid house framing.
If those who installed your deck attached your ledger with simple nails or decking screws, install 1/2” in diameter carriage bolts or lag screws approximately 1 foot 4” to 2 feet apart. The spacing of the bolts is determined by the length of the joists and can vary from deck to deck. Local codes will provide you with more information on proper spacing. Any spacers, siding, or open space decreases the strength of the carriage bolts and may cause the deck to become unsafe.
Preventing ledger board splits
When ledger board is attached to your home, a staggered bolt pattern should be used to decrease the possibility of a crack forming along the length of the board and causing it to fail.
Preventing ledger board wood rot
Ledger board may rot prematurely due to lack of proper flashing, or construction with standard lumber. Your deck’s exposed framing lumber should always be decay resistant, according to the American Wood Council’s publication. Ledgers should be flashed to avoid moisture penetration from above.
Problems that primarily occur in older decks and can lead to deck collapse
- Ledger board pulls away from the house and causes deck collapse
- Ledger board splits and causes a crack along the length of the board that makes it fail
- Ledger board rots due to lack of proper flashing
- Joist failures can result in holes that you or your loved ones could fall through
- Foundation failures when decks are tall and foundation supports fail, causing enough drop to happen that even a well attached ledger can be ripped from the home
- Post failures due to wood rot or undersized components
- Hanger failure due to either being nailed at an angle, or joist hangers falling out due to wood rot or corroded fasteners
Why new deck construction is much safer than old deck construction
Thankfully, new deck construction is built based on current codes and requires a number of inspections, so the possibilities of your deck failing are slim with new construction. It’s the old decking materials and outdated construction practices that usually cause trouble.
Relax this spring and summer on a safe, beautiful deck
MN Contractor Pros, a reputable deck builder in the Twin Cities area, understands how much people like to spend time outdoors. Entertaining friends and family comes easy when you have a grill, some seating, and a beautiful deck on which to gather together.
As a deck contractor, we install new decking, or update your current deck to create the refreshing space you desire for luxurious outdoor entertaining that impresses your guests. Our decks feature multi-level decking, seating, built-in planters, space for grills and outdoor refrigerators, and more. Take a look at our recent projects and what others are saying about our deck installations.