The #1 Reason Decks Collapse and How You Can Prevent It

Posted on: May 22, 2013
Deck Failures

Summer is here!  And as the weather gets warmer, we seek the outdoors, entertaining and spending more time on an outdoor deck.  With the availability and affordability of pressure treated wood,  decks and outdoor living arrangements have become very popular over the past 20 + years, becoming the gathering space during social functions.  But with this rise in popularity comes certain risks and deck failures are rising at an alarming rate.

Because decks are elevated structures, usually about 8-12 feet off the ground, injuries often occur as a result failure and can range from bumps and bruises to death. One of the most severe cases happened June 29, 2003 when a multi-tiered deck on a Chicago home catastrophically collapsed resulting in 13 deaths and 57 injuries.

Though there are little national statistics, experts believe decks are separating from or failing at a rate of one per week, especially during summer - when they get the most use.  As a result of the failures, building code officials have begun to scrutinize deck construction and the 2012 International Residential Code has many amendments which pertain to deck construction.

While there are many reasons for deck failure, the number one reason is the ledger board separating from the house structure.  The ledger board is a horizontal piece of lumber which runs parallel and is mounted to the house structure.  The underlying floor joist mount to and usually run perpendicular to the ledger board.  If the ledger board de-attaches from the structure or fails for any reason the deck will collapse.  When this happens most often it is without warning and when numerous people are socializing on the deck.  The picture shown above is an example of a deck with a ledger board failure.

Below are two very informative videos about what to look for when constructing and just as important- maintaining a deck.  There is also a web site by Simpson Strong-Tie, which is also very informative and has many more videos for review and you can even download a free copy of a deck framing and connection guide.  (   Deck life span can be considered as little as 8 – 10 years with no maintenance.  So perform a routine check and if you see any of the (5) warning signs by all means get your deck repaired. 


ABOUT WILLIAM CULLEN: Owner and President of Cullen Brothers, LLC building custom homes throughout the greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area since 1997. Cullen Brothers take great pride in their work in a way that is equal to that of their clients. It is this level of commitment which sets them apart and is unmatched in the industry. Cullen Brothers are emotionally invested in helping you fulfill your dreams and providing you with a finished project built to the highest standards within the industry. 

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