Buying a used home is an exciting time, but can be scary if you don’t know the history of the home. This worry is amplified for areas like the deck, where minor problems become major problems and carry the potential for injury or worse.

Here are our top tips to make sure your deck is installed properly.

Check for proper footings

For decks, it quite literally starts from the ground up with the footings. The best practice for most deck footings is to bury the footing. Properly installed deck footings will ensure safety, so the deck doesn’t sink into the ground from its own weight, become a projectile in high winds, or heave from frost in the winter.

Depending on where you live, there might be a state-wide regulation for how deep footings must be dug out. Minnesota has a minimum of 42” in the lower half of the state and over 60” minimum in the northern region. You can check to see if your deck has concrete by looking to see where beams meet the ground and even dig a few inches to be extra cautious. Next, make sure the deck is actually bolted into the footing itself.

Measure your depth and size

Next, measure the depth and size of your deck. This, with your knowledge of the footings, will help you know the proper spacing of deck footings based on where your beams and joists are. If your deck is too deep for how many supporting joists there are, your deck won’t be safe and is more prone to collapsing or sagging.

With that said, this is a great time to make sure none of the boards are showing signs of rot.

Don’t overlook the joists

Check your joists next. You’ll be looking for rust in the hardware and rot around them. If you have to replace hardware, do so one at a time so your entire deck doesn’t come crashing down.

If you notice rot around your joists, remove and replace. If you can’t replace, you can reinforce with wood preservative or add another support beam. Install with similar connecting hardware used before, attaching the new beam to the old one. We recommend stainless steel screws.

How high is the railing?

Making sure your deck railings are up to code is key to both safety and comfort of use. A railing that’s too high will be an annoyance, and a railing too short will be unsafe. Deck railings must be, at a minimum, 36 inches from the deck surface. Less than that is not only unsafe but illegal.

While you’re at it, check to make sure there are no loose posts or handrails. Anything loose in the railing system must be either properly tightened or replaced.

The most common problem we see.

Stairs are one of the biggest issues we find with improperly built decks. It’s infinitely important to make sure your deck footings are up to snuff under the stairs since there’s extra force and wear involved. Check the treads and risers for decay and replace anything that appears worrisome.

Ensuring your deck is installed properly will only take you 15-20 minutes, but will save you time and money in the long run—and potentially even injuries to you, your family or friends. If you notice a problem with your deck, it can be an easy fix. If you’re not so lucky and it’s a bigger issue, drop us a line and let us take care of it for you.