How To Tell That Your Deck Builder Has Done A Great Job
After your deck builder has completed building your deck, you need to inspect it before you make the final payment. If you are not familiar with deck construction, you might make the mistake of focusing your inspection on the aesthetic values on your deck. However, a deck needs to do more than just look good. Most decks are raised. So if your deck is not structurally-sound, it could collapse and cause serious injury. Here are some pointers on how to inspect whether your deck builder has fulfilled their mandate and constructed a quality deck for you.
Are there exposed nails/screws
This is one of the most glaring signs of unprofessionalism; nails and screws used for fastening your deck need to be flush to the surfaces or slightly indented. Fewer experiences are more painful than stubbing your toe on an exposed nail/screw. The situation is made worse if there are young children in your household who run around without being aware of their environment. Even for adults, exposed nails are a tripping hazard. On a more functional note, exposed nails are a sign that the individual parts of your deck have not been fastened together adequately. Don’t just check on the exposed surfaces, extend your search for exposed nails to posts, beams, and joists below the deck. If they are not fastened well, then the structural integrity of your deck is compromised and your deck builder did not do a good job.
Are there sagging planks?
If your deck builder did a good job, then there should be no sagging planks on your deck. Make sure you inspect the deck floor, stairs, and the railing for any signs of sagging or cupping. If certain segments of your deck floor creak when you walk over them, there might be some sagging. Sagging is the sign of poor workmanship. The sagged areas are more prone to snap or break under pressure, especially from extended use.
Unsealed or unpainted Surfaces
As an outdoors structure, your deck will be exposed to the elements and other natural factors. To protect the materials used in constructing the deck, all the exposed surfaces need a coat of protective sealant and paint. Any surfaces that fail to get this protection will be affected by rainfall, dampness, snow, direct sunlight, mold, mildew, and harmful insects (especially termites). The underside of the deck is particularly vulnerable to dampness and rot, and this will affect the overall structural integrity of your deck.
Check all surfaces to ensure that they have a protective layer or sealant and paint (or varnish). Your deck is as strong as its individual parts, and if one segment fails, the entire deck can collapse.
As a raised structure, decks are required to have a protective railing for safety purposes. Your inspection should not fail to establish whether the railing is sturdy enough. Give your railings a firm wiggle and see whether they easily sway under pressure. If they remain sturdy, then your deck builder did a good job, if they are lose, then they were not properly installed.
Check to see that your deck is connected well to the house
As extensions to your living space, most decks are directly connected to your house. This connection serves as one of the main support structures for your deck; which means that if it is not done properly, your deck will collapse. Firmly shake the connection areas to see if your deck is well fastened to your building. Make a point of seeing how the connection is done. Your deck should be fastened to the house by large lag screws, which are capped at the end. If the connection is made by nails and/or small screws, then your deck builder has not done a good job.
Hire a professional deck inspector
Most of the checks prescribed in this guide rely on visual inspection. While they are useful to establish whether your deck builder has met all requirements, there are many other checks that require special tools and professional training. A malicious deck builder has the knowledge to hide these obvious flaws that require visual inspection but still cut corners in other aspects of deck building which you cannot determine on your own.
The North American Deck and Railing Association trains and certifies deck inspectors for this very purpose. Hire one to come and give your finished deck a look before you make the final payment to your deck builder. Professional inspectors will check your foundation and ensure that your deck meets the necessary building codes which you might not be familiar with. The extra cost of hiring the inspector will be worth it as you can be assured that your deck is well constructed for your family’s safety and enjoyment.