5 On Your Side

Deck collapse prompts concern for many Triangle homeowners

Posted July 7, 2015
Updated July 8, 2015

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— A deck collapse at an Emerald Isle beach house that injured 24 people Saturday evening has many Triangle homeowners asking if it could it happen to their deck.

Compared with the number of decks on homes, collapses are fairly rare, but an online check shows it happens more than many people realize.

The typical causes are questionable construction and poor maintenance.

Wallace Baker, a builder, former home inspector and president of Cary-based Trendmark Inc., said most problems involve decks that were built before building codes tightened.

We showed him a picture of the Emerald Isle deck. The home, located at 4403 Ocean Drive, was built in 1986.

While looking at the picture Baker told us "I see two things wrong here." He said it appears the floor joists and support boards are nailed together, not bolted, which is now a requirement.

"You'll also notice there is no cross bracing, which is one of the most important parts of the deck system," Baker said.

He added another possible issue is weight distribution.

"Most decks are not designed to hold a large group of people in one area," Baker said. "Spread out throughout the deck...a much better senario."

In an effort to avoid accidents, Baker suggests checking your deck for any deterioration.

"If you have an older home - 15 years or more - it's a great idea to check your deck visually," he said. "If you see something that looks deteriorated, rusted or pulled away, that would certainly be a good indicator."

Baker also suggested the following:

• Walk around and check for any spring in the wood. This could be a sign reinforcement is needed.

• Shake the railings. There should not be any movement.

• Check the balusters to make sure they are securely attached.

• Check what is going on underneath the deck.

If there is a concern about your deck, experts recommend hiring a home inspector licensed in North Carolina to check it out.

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