Homeowners, Check Your Wood Deck for Signs of Failure

About 40 million wood decks in the U.S. Are 20 years old or older, according to the Home Safety Council. When they’re maintained and inspected regularly, decks this old may not pose a problem. What many don’t know is that a deck that’s just 5 years old can collapse if it’s not constructed or secured well, or isn’t maintained. What’s worse is that over 75 percent of the people on decks that fail get seriously injured or killed. By performing a regular inspection, you can make sure that your wood deck is safe for all to enjoy.

Wooden deck close-up


Common Reasons Why Wood Decks Collapse


Time takes a toll on wood decks. Areas that become damp can compromise a deck’s integrity, especially if the wood splits or rots.

Fire Hazards

Electronics, like low-voltage lights, pose a fire hazard when they’re not installed correctly. The same is true for fire pits, grills, candles and outdoor heaters that aren’t on a heat-proof surface.

Loose Fasteners

Decks fastened to ledgers with nails slide out with time. If a screw isn’t long enough, it will slide out of place.

Weak Fastening Surfaces

Decks tend to fail when a builder fastens them to a weak surface, like fiberboard wall sheathing, or fails to fasten the ledgers to the rim joists.

DIY Wood Deck Safety Inspection

Ledger Board

Verify that the deck is secured to the ledger board using lag bolts. If you notice nails,inferior screws or corroded lag bolts, replace them immediately. Tighten any loose connections and replace wood that has split, decayed or shows signs of dry rot.


Find the center of your deck and move your hips from side to side, as if you had an invisible hula hoop. If you feel any wiggling under your feet, your deck is a safety hazard.

Deck Surfaces

Carefully examine all the surfaces of your deck, including the parts under your patio furniture and potted plants. Replace boards that have signs of rot or insect damage, and those that have splits or cracks. Fix loose boards and nails that popped out of place.

After you check the top surface of the deck, repeat the inspection of the bottom surface.

Footings and Posts

As you inspect the deck footings and posts, verify that the fasteners are lag bolts. The bolts should be in good shape and not corroded. Replace parts that show signs of decay and repair loose connections. If you notice pooled water, your landscaping may have a drainage problem that needs attention or flashing that needs replacing.

Stair and Rails

Replace damaged boards on your deck stairs, especially if they show signs of rot, insect damage or are broken. As you inspect your deck, test all the handrails to make sure that they don’t sway or wiggle.


After you finish looking down on your deck, look up at the trees in your yard. Cut back any tree limbs that overhang your deck or roof so they can’t come crashing down when there’s a storm or heavy snowfall.

Decks are where you spend most of the time outdoors when you are at home and the weather is nice. By performing a regular safety inspection on your deck, you can avoid a hazard before discovering it the wrong way. If you ever have a question about the safety of your deck, never hesitate to call a contractor who specializes in wood decks.

Author Bio: This guest post was written by RicksFencing.com, which designs & installs wood decks and fences in a variety of styles throughout Oregon and Washington. 

Erin Emanuel