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DECKS

Deck Safety 
Even decks that appear to be professionally constructed can have defects that could cause their 
collapse. These defects are so difficult for the average homeowner to recognize that the Master 
Inspector Certification Board recommends that all decks be inspected by a Certified Master 
Inspector®. 
More than 2 million decks are built and replaced each year in North America. Of the 45 million 
existing decks, only 40% are completely safe. 
Because decks appear to be simple to build, many people do not realize that decks are, in fact, 
structures that need to be designed to adequately resist certain stresses. Like any other house 
or building, a deck must be designed to support the weight of people, snow loads, and objects. 
A deck must be able to resist lateral and uplift loads that can act on the deck as a result of wind 
or seismic activity. Deck stairs must be safe, and handrails graspable. And, finally, deck rails 
should be safe for children by having proper infill spacing. 
A deck failure is any failure of a deck that could lead to injury, including rail failure, or total deck 
collapse. There is no international system that tracks deck failures, and each is treated as an 
isolated event, rather than a systemic problem. Very few municipalities perform investigations 
into the cause of the failure, and the media are generally more concerned with injuries rather 
than the causes of deck collapses. Rail failure occurs much more frequently than total deck 
collapses; however, because rail failures are less dramatic than total collapses and normally 
don't result in death, injuries from rail failures are rarely reported. 
Here are some interesting facts about deck failure: 
More decks collapse in the summer than during the rest of the seasons combined. 
Almost every deck collapse occurred while the decks were occupied or under a heavy snow 
load. 
There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built with or without a 
building permit. 
There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built by a homeowner or 
a professional contractor. 
There is a slight correlation between deck failure and the age of the deck. 
36 
.
Many doityourself 
homeowners, and even contractors, don't believe that rail infill spacing 
codes apply to decks. 
Significant safety hazards are caused by both DIY and commercially built decks that: 
may be built over a septic system or underground storage tank. 
These are just some of the hazards that make a deck that is unsafe to use. 



Decks are primarily made of wood or a composite wood material or vinyl, like Trex. Popular woods for decking include redwood, cedar, and pressure-treated pine. Properly cared for, decks offer a beauty and warmth unlike any other material. You can stretch out on a deck without a cushion and still be quite comfortable.