Experts Warn Many Backyard Decks can Collapse

As the weather finally begins to warm up after an especially brutal winter, families are eager to get outside and enjoy the milder spring on their decks. However, home inspection experts warn that of the two million decks that are built and replaced every year, only about 40% are actually safe. Deck collapses, especially those which are high off the ground, can lead to serious injuries and death.

As with so many tragic injury cases, most deck collapses are completely preventable. Eric Kent, co-owner of Archadeck of Charlotte, a company that specializes in building decks and porches, explains that most deck accidents result from improper attachment to the house or building. Weaker decks are commonly attached using a regular bolt, which can slide easily through wood, causing the deck to collapse. Instead, Kent suggests a “thru bolt” which is a “large, galvanized bolt that literally runs through the exterior wall of a house and into the deck supports.”

In addition to the contractors installing the deck, homeowners have a huge responsibility to inspect their decks frequently. A thorough inspection starts with checking for cracks and splits around the nuts and bolts, and also includes the wood and the railings. Eric Kent warns that springiness and mold are the first signs of rot, severely weakening the strength of the structure and increasing the risk of collapse exponentially. After the long winter, deck boards can feel damp and soft, even breaking apart to the touch. Imagine loading 15 family members and friends onto a structure that could disintegrate in seconds.

Kent also urges homeowners to be especially aware of the railings. Railing failure is responsible for thousands of emergency room visits and deaths every year, and is actually more common than a deck collapse.

Homeowners often seek help from friends or neighbors to build their deck, but experts strong caution against this practice. To ensure your deck is safe and to prevent serious injury or death, always use a licensed contractor when designing and building the structure. A well-built and properly maintained deck should last 30 years.

Additional information about deck safety

• Attaching a deck to a house with nails is the leading cause of deck collapses. Nails are smooth and pull out easily. Screws and bolts are more secure.
• A sturdy railing is also essential. Every summer people are hospitalized from falling over.
• Check your deck once a year. Go underneath and examine the bolts and screws.
• Call a home inspector if you notice any problems.

Personal injury or death resulting from a deck collapse is often heartbreaking way to a fun family event. Of the thousands of injuries from inadequate structures every year, the vast majority are completely preventable with proper inspection and maintenance. Victims are left devastated by their injuries, both physically and financially. We’re here to help. At the Greater Boston Law Firm of Altman & Altman, LLP, our dedicated team of Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorneys understand the pain faced by victims of personal injuries and their families following a deck collapse or unsafe structure. Our attorneys combine the professional experience of having successfully handled thousands of Personal Injury cases with the individual attention to respond to the unique nature of your case.

At the law offices of Altman & Altman, we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – including nights and weekends to answer any questions regarding your case. Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.

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