Do you know the structural condition of your outdoor entertaining area? Many homeowners haven't answered that question since they bought their home.

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Q: With warm weather around the corner, what are some often-forgotten outdoor projects I can get started on to improve the overall health of my home?

A: Do you have a deck? If so, now is the time to address it.

The thing parents worry about most when allowing their child out into the world for the first time is whether they will be safe. Same goes when buying a car; most of us think about the safety ratings of the vehicle first and foremost.

But what about your deck? Do you know the condition of the structure of your outdoor entertaining or lounging area? It may have been inspected when you bought your home, but have you thought about the safety of it since?

You may be asking yourself, “Why would my deck have been safe when I purchased my home but may not be now?”

There are a few reasons that immediately come to mind. First, rot or decay may have made your deck unsafe since you moved in — especially if you have a wooden deck and have not done proper yearly maintenance.

The second reason is that, over the years, the way we build decks has evolved and is dramatically different from how they were built even five years ago. As decks fail (meaning they collapse, or people fall off them), changes are made to make them safer. This means that your deck will not collapse even if you have 15 of your best friends out dancing on it. Or if your Uncle Bob has a wee bit too much to drink and stumbles heavily into the deck railing, he won’t break through and fall.

What should you look for? Here are a few items that indicate that your deck may not be safe and could need repairs or an upgrade.

  • It has soft spots where the deck boards give.
  • The deck sways side to side with a few people on it.
  • There is some rot in the railing or the railing is wobbly.
  • The steps have a lot of bounce to them.
  • You hear creaking, cracking or squeaking when you walk on your deck.
  • The deck boards have started to come away from the structure underneath.

The next important question is: What should I do in the event I see (or feel) one or more of the above items? If you have the skills and the tools, and you have time to review the codes to repair the deck, take the time to do so as soon as possible.

If you are like most people, however, and are not qualified (or just do not have time), you can call a licensed contractor. Make sure they have experience with decks and deck repair, and have them come out and take a look at the deck. Most will do an initial consultation and estimate at no charge.

After ensuring your deck is up to standard, go ahead and give Uncle Bob a call. He misses your backyard barbecues.

 

Kimberley Martin is the owner of Cyneburg Scapes and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS), and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.