Spring is the perfect time to perform an annual inspection of your deck's structural components. With the wet, cold, and harsh winter months behind it, the deck's boards, railings, and stairs may have taken the brunt of exposure to the elements. But are they ready for backyard summer fun? Or is this the year when you should replace elements instead? Here are four things to look for in order to decide.
1. Loose Pieces. One of the easiest signs for any layperson to notice is a wobbly or loose part. Jiggle the handrails, particularly in well-used areas like along the stairs, around fire pits, and in heavily trafficked entertainment spaces. If any of the railings are loose, contact a contractor that offers deck railing services. Loose rails, planks, or other boards might not need to be replaced — possibly just needing repair — but they are a big safety hazard. Not only do you put your family and friends at risk, but an accident can affect your insurance rates or open you to legal liability.
2. Warping. If your deck is constructed from wood, it runs the risk of warping from exposure to rain, snow, ice, and other moisture. Warping makes items not fit well together and may affect the beauty of the deck. But, more importantly, it weakens the wood structure. Unexpected warping is also an indicator that there may be moisture coming from unknown sources that should be found and eliminated.
3. Pest Infestations. Examine wood railings and planks for signs that insects and other small critters are getting into the structure. Bark beetles, ants, and particularly termites can cause serious damage inside and underneath the wood where you won't immediately see it. This calls for a close examination because you may only be able to see one or two insects or signs of their activities (such as pinpoint holes made by termites).
4. Corrosion. Not all of your deck structures are made from wood. Connectors like screws, nails, and joints are usually metal and are susceptible to deterioration and rust. Test out the connections between railing elements, both horizontal and vertical, to ensure they are solid and sound. Look for signs of corrosion such as white or rust-colored powdery substances. Older or improper metal parts should be replaced to keep the entire unit solid.
Any homeowner, no matter how much or how little experience they have, can inspect their deck for warping, pests, corrosion, and instability. If you find anything questionable during your own inspection, call a contractor who specializes in decks right away. The sooner you get your outdoor area ready for summer, the more you will enjoy your time at home.