Large decks, extravagant patios, and outdoor kitchens are part of a growing trend in the United States to make good use of outdoor landscapes for entertaining, dining, and relaxation.
A deck can serve as a seasonal family room during summer, spring, and even in the fall months. Wood and composite decks need regular maintenance because even when treated, they still deteriorate over time due to the effects of the sun, humidity, and water.
For your deck to serve you longer, you need to take good care of it. Here are 6 things your deck needs to stay strong:
1. Strong Lag screws in ledger boards
The ledger board supports the end of the deck that's against the house. If the lag screws have become weak, the deck can come tumbling down. Ledger boards need to be strongly fastened to the house using 3-in. x 1/2-in. lag screws driven at 16 in. intervals. You can also use lag bolts.
2. Nails in joist hangers
A joist hanger has many nail holes and you need to ensure all of them have nails. If not, the hangers can easily pull off from the ledger board or rim joist, and that can be disastrous.
Contractors sometimes use a few nails to hold the hangers in place then forget to add more nails later, leaving the holes open. This compromises the structural integrity of the deck.
3. Strong Deck Support Posts
Being load-bearing columns, support posts need to be very strong. They rest directly on footings where they soak some water and this may make them rot. It can be worse if the support posts aren't pressure treated.
When the posts rot, they lose their strength and will no longer be able to support the weight of the deck. The best solution is to replace rotten posts and to use a raised concrete footing to keep them dry.
4. Strong Wimpy post connections
Ideally, your posts should be directly under the rim joist or the beam to effectively support the deck.
If you fasten the posts to the side of the rim joist or beam, the weight load will get transferred to the fasteners connecting the post to the deck. This is a recipe for collapse. In this kind of an arrangement, the fasteners (nails) will not be strong enough for the job, no matter how many you use.
5. Strong railing posts
Railing posts are very important components of a deck. Even though loose railings won't make the deck to collapse, it can make you fall if you try to lean on them.
If you used only nails to attach them, it is most likely that they will become loose with time, no matter how many nails you used. A 4x4 post anchor is great for a rail because it is strong enough.
6. Look out for the wobbly deck syndrome
A creaking noise you hear when you move on the stairs or on the deck itself could be a sign of some major issues within the structure. Likewise, if the structure shakes as you move, then you need to find out the cause of the problem and fix it.
The shaking could be because the movement puts extra stress on connectors and fasteners. If not attended to, such stresses can make the ledger board twist or make the joists to come off the rim joists.
You can take some angle bracing and fasten them under the deck to eliminate the wobbling by stiffening it.
Even though pressure-treated wood is resistant to insect predation and rotting, it will still split and crack from exposure to water. The best way to protect your deck is to keep it sealed.
There are many paints, stains, and sealers on the market designed specifically for deck use. They are great for protecting wood against ultraviolet light, fungus growth, and moisture damage. Using them on your deck will help keep it strong for long.