The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) declared May as Deck Safety Month back in 2006. May is the month that many homeowners start to spend extended time outside on their decks as the weather turns nicer. Unfortunately, a lot of homeowners don’t have their deck’s safety evaluated properly. Just because it is standing, doesn’t mean that it is safe!
According to NADRA, there are over 40 million decks in the United States that are over 20 years old. This is a scary idea for deck builders like us at Archadeck. Building and code requirements have changed drastically in the last 20 years. Those decks that were built 20 years ago most likely would not be considered safe or up to code by today’s standards.
At Archadeck, we suggest having any deck over 7 years old checked for safety. A professional deck builder can come out to home and check all the components of your existing structure. From there, you should get a list of any issues and how they can be addressed. When we do our deck safety inspections, for example, we often find problems with the deck that can be fixed quickly to extend the life of the structure. There are times, however, that we find that it is best to just replace the deck entirely to ensure that those enjoying it are safe and secure.
So what are deck inspectors looking for when they evaluate your deck? At Archadeck, we use the BE SAFER acronym to explain what we are looking at:
Boards – While most wood decking will show cracks over time, the overall condition of the boards need to be considered.
Every Connection – Hardware is key when considering deck safety. Every connection and fastener should be looked at to ensure safety and stability.
Structure – What is the condition of the posts, beams and joists that make up the skeleton of the deck? Is there any visible sagging?
Attachment – It’s imperative to check how the deck was attached to the house as that is where most deck failures occur.
Foundation and Footings – This part of the deck supports the weight of the structure and those who enjoy it. Foundations and footings need to be checked for sinking, sagging and separation from beams.
Exits – Are all of the exits from the deck, like stairs and ramps, in good condition?
Rails – Check that all parts of the railing system, posts, pickets and balusters, are sturdy, properly built and the correct height.
Before you host a barbecue with twenty friends, make sure that you have a deck safety inspection, especially if your deck is more than 7 years old. It will give you the peace of mind that you need to truly enjoy the spring and summer months. Call your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office to set up an inspection at your home.
The time has come! Voting is now available for the Archadeck Dream Backyard Makeover Contest. Out of over 2,000 photo entries, we’ve narrowed the field down to six and here’s where you come in. Logon to the Archadeck Facebook voting page to vote for your favorite finalists! Public votes will help us decide who the final winner will be. I can’t wait to announce the grand prize winner in mid-May!
After the winner is revealed, we’ll be keeping everyone abreast of each step of the process, from deck and patio design through construction and the final project. I’m particularly excited to learn more about how the winner envisions using the space and how we can make that a reality through our custom outdoor living design!
Congratulations again to all of our winners. Please visit the contest voting page (available here) to vote for one of these six finalists:
We hired a contractor to rebuild our deck and he did about half the work and abandoned to work sight. After inspection, we found out that nothing was to code and he did not have a contractors license. This was part of our retirement savings and now we will have to wait until we can save up the money to have the deck torn down and rebuilt.
We bought our first house last summer (2012), 3 days after the birth of our first child. It’s the “forever house” where we will raise our family. It’s a great house, but it needs some TLC here and there. One of those places is the backyard. Our house is on a corner lot and the house is situated at such an angle that the backyard is very exposed to the street. This exposure makes the curb appeal for our back yard as important as our front yard! We would love to have a beautiful new backyard to have parties and hang out with our friends and get to know our new neighbors. And when they all ohh and ahh over our awesome back yard, we’ll be sure to tell them that we owe it all to Archedeck! Be sure to leave plenty of business cards because I know we’ll be handing them out to friends and passers-by alike! Pick me! : )
As parents of four kids under ten who, essentially, live outside the majority of the year, we’re in dire need of backyard help! Recently, we adopted two incredible kids from foster care and instantly became a family of six. The addition of these little ones enriched our lives, but shrunk our home! Hence, the move to a larger house with good bones and smarter space but also a need for serious updating. Since the move, we’ve slowly been saving money and fixing up the interior. Unfortunately, the backyard has received little attention as it’s been placed at the end of our long list of to-dos. Despite constant competition from technology, my continual goal as a parent is to keep my kids outside playing, imagining, and dreaming. Currently, we rely on a homemade sandbox, trampoline, a rickety, hand-me-down play-set, and deteriorating, wooden deck. My backyard dream is to give my kids a safe, fun place to play and my husband a space to relax with a beer in one hand and grill tongs in the other, standing next to a Green Egg Grill. All I really want for myself is a comfortable spot to sit and watch it all happen.
My husband and I are brand new homeowners and first time parents to a son…all within the same year. Both my husband and myself never had a private backyard to play in when we grew up (he grew up in the Bronx and I grew up in Queens, NY). So when we saw this house in Greenwich, CT with a private backyard overlooking a pretty pond we overlooked the ugly red, 1968, totally not up to code, beat up porch and thought this could be a great place to raise a family. We had to do a gut renovation of our house but didn’t have the funds to do any work on our backyard. This will be our first summer where our son can really enjoy the outdoors so we would love the opportunity to give him a space that is safe and enjoyable for friends and family BBQs. The photo is of my husband on our porch when we got the keys to our very first home.
We are of family of 8 with 6 kids ranging in age from 2 up to 11. That doesn’t include numerous neighborhood kids that all love to come over and play at our house. They all enjoy the outdoors and we would like to make our backyard a safe and fun place for them all to play as well as a beautiful spot for my husband and I to relax and enjoy. Our home is situated on a hill and the backyard is terraced. The retaining walls, made with railroad ties, are rotting away and our deck is falling apart. We would love to have a sturdy deck that we could sit on in the evenings, grilling out, and serving up a bunch of fun to all the kids.
My family and I are fortunate to live in a wonderful neighborhood surrounded by beautiful trees and great neighbors, but our fixer-upper leaves much to be desired. We recently purchased this home with stars in our eyes, creativity in our hearts, and a shoestring budget. The first words that came out of my husband’s mouth when we were viewing the back yard with our realtor were: “someday this will be the most amazing spot for a deck…” Our dream is magnificent, but our reality is daunting. The current state of our backyard makes me cringe every day when I open the curtains, or chase down my toddler and tell him “No, no – you can’t go back there”. Our dream deck would replace vines, a pile of concrete, construction debris, and other unsightly features that make the space unusable. We envision a tiered outdoor living space where we can grill, unwind, entertain, get to know our neighbors, let our toddler play, and enjoy the natural beauty of our neighborhood. We have a blank canvas on an amazing lot that is full of possibilities. We just need help to turn our dreams for this space into reality!
It’s the official beginning of spring which means the warm days of sunshine aren’t too far away. On a nice sunny day it is hard to find me anywhere but outside and one of my favorite spots to put my feet up and take in the sun is around my parents’ pool. They have a great pool deck that is a great place to spend some time outdoors.
A spa or pool without a deck looks incomplete. The outdoors should be an extension of your home with space to sit and relax around the pool as the kids jump inside. The size, color and material of pool decks are endless. There is a style for everyone, but the function is what is most important. A material that tends to be slippery when wet, for example, wouldn’t be a good idea around a spa or pool. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, our franchisees have designed and built custom outdoor living spaces that fit all types of pools and spas. Take a look at these…
This first design is from our deck builder in Charlotte. The homeowners have a large backyard, but they wanted a mini sanctuary for their hot tub and outdoor shower that was private. They essentially wanted a room outdoors. Our designer designed a space that was beautiful, private and safe. The biggest issue when designing a spa deck is the weight of the spa. The weight of the tub, as well as the water needs to be accounted for to make sure the structure is safe for everyone using it. Additional foundation may be needed underneath to ensure there is no sinking. Our Archadeck of Charlotte team designed the space with this beautiful wood in mind. The wood decking for the deck and fence gives the area a spa like feel that I would love to relax in.
This pool deck in the Tri-Cities is on a large, rural property. The homeowners had an above ground pool that they weren’t getting enough use out of. They thought that having a deck built at the pool’s height would make the area more inviting. Our Archadeck designer decided to build a pool deck that had enough room for several lounge chairs and a slide for the kids. Because the homeowners had young kids that they wanted to keep away from the pool at times, the entire space was fenced in using vinyl deck railing. The only way to climb into the pool is off the deck.
I wouldn’t mind having this view from this pool deck in Charleston. This commercial area in South Carolina has a small in-ground pool and beautiful view, but until recently didn’t have the outdoor structure needed to pull it all together. The property owners wanted a space that visitors could sit and relax or dine on while enjoying the view and the pool. The pool already had pavers surrounding it and the Charleston deck designer was able to create a smooth transition from one space to another by adding a step onto the pool deck. The grey TimberTech decking complements the grey tones of the pavers beautifully.
This last pool deck comes from Austin, TX. The homeowners built a beautiful pool and spa area in their backyard that had a unique shape and wanted the new pool deck to mirror its curves. Our Archadeck of Austin team designed a low to grade curved deck to surround the pool on three sides. By making the deck low to grade, the deck was not only at the same height as the pool, but no railings were necessary for safety. The designer and homeowners agreed that adding railing would make the space more cut off from the rest of the property and obscure the views. I love the deep red color of the wood; with the spaces more natural surroundings, it goes with the more earthy feel of the space.
Pool decks are a great way to make a pool the center of an outdoor area. They make the space more welcoming to the homeowners and their guests. If you have an unfinished pool area or your current one needs an update, contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office. Our trained deck designers will make sure to create a space you love.
I recently visited my mother and father-in-law about 45 minutes away. During our visit, my husband and I walked the dog around the neighborhood as it has expanded significantly over the last few years. While we walked around, I noticed a theme on many of the houses: elevated decks. You see, the neighborhood itself is VERY hilly and many of the lots slope in the back. The main living space is anywhere from 20 to 40 feet above the ground below. Elevated decks allow them to easily enjoy the outdoors.
When properties have slopes, raised decks are a great way to provide a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor spaces without any steep staircases connecting them. Imagine having to go down a 20 foot staircase just to throw your burgers on the grill when it could be so much easier?
The building of an elevated deck, however, does involve more than the standard deck. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, safety is our number one priority, both for the clients and our team of deck builders and we make sure we do everything to make the process go smoothly. It’s all in the planning of the build.
The first thing we look at is the skeleton of the deck. Elevated decks have to withstand a greater load so the footings are usually wider and set deeper into the ground. We also test the ground dirt to see how much it can bear and then use the required amount of cement at the base of the structure.
The taller the elevate deck, the taller the support posts have to be and the better the bracing. Bracing is used to strengthen the structure and prevent any sway which can cause safety concerns, especially with taller decks. The support posts, depending on weight may need to be larger than the standard width.
Different materials may also be used on elevated decks that don’t need to be considered for lower grade decks. For instance, steel may need to be incorporated for support.
Elevated decks, although they can be more difficult to build, allow for some great design features that aren’t available for other decks. For instance, under decking creates dry, usable outdoor space underneath the tall structure. And porches or rooms can be added to the structure. Take a look at these great Archadeck elevated decks.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those that are recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, our passion is improving outdoor living spaces for families to enjoy and unfortunately strong storms and hurricanes like Sandy can bring havoc on such areas of the property.
As the weeks and months of recovery beginning, we wanted to offer guidance to those that were impacted regarding their outdoor living areas. High winds and rains can cause damage to decks, porches, patios, etc. and it’s important to look for that damage and have it repaired by a deck professional.
Here are some things to look for:
- Exposed or washed out footings/foundations. Especially in areas where flooding occurred, it’s important to check and see if you can see the foundations of your deck or if the structure seems to have sunk. This is one of the most important safety components of your deck, so if you are worried about the structure, call your local deck builder to come and take a look.
- Erosion under your deck or on your patio. The ground underneath a deck helps support the foundation of it. When the ground is washed away either by high winds or rain like many areas experienced due to Sandy, it weakens the structure. For patios, the pavers are locked in by compacted dirt and sand. Under harsh conditions some of the sand may be swept away, leaving the pavers loose and unsafe to walk on.
- High winds may weaken decks, especially older decks. If any deck boards, railings or steps are loose and shaky, it’s important to have a professional come and look at the structural integrity of the project.
- For structures that are attached to the house, check for any water infiltration at the place of attachment. For many homeowners that will be in the crawl space or basement of their home. If there is water dripping, it can cause damage to the structure of not only your outdoor living space, but your home.
Mother Nature can cause safety issues when it comes to outdoor living spaces. After big storms like Sandy, you should have an outdoor living contractor come and inspect your spaces. At Archadeck, we offer a deck safety inspection where we check all parts of your structure and provide recommendations as what you may need to do now and what you can plan for in the future.
There has been influx of news regarding deck safety in the last few months. Both the Today Show and local news have covered deck safety and how, when not built or maintained properly, decks can be very dangerous.
Decks in general have to withstand a lot of outside influences including rain, snow, wind, temperature changes. Additionally, a lot of homeowners don’t invest in the routine maintenance that decks need. All of these factors can result in a deck failure that can cause serious injury.
According to the North American Deck and Railing Association, there are more than 40 million decks in the United States that are 20 years old or older. We at Archadeck Outdoor Living, recommend checking the structure of the deck each fall and spring if your deck is over 7 years old (the average deck needs to be replaced every ten years).
To help homeowners determine if their deck is safe or not, we have come up with the Acronym “BE SAFER.” Go outside and take a look at the be safer components. If you have concerns or questions regarding the safety of your structure, have a professional come and perform a comprehensive deck safety inspection.
- Boards – check the deck boards for signs of rot, softness or major cracking.
- Every Connection – Look for screws or nails that are breaking away from the deck or have rusted.
- Structure – look at the posts, beams and joists that make up the framework of the deck. Pay special attention to any sagging that may be present.
- Attachments – the attachment to the house is very important as it is where most deck failures occur. Take a look under your deck and verify it is connected to the house using the proper bolts (not nails!) and flashing for moisture protection.
- Foundations/Footings – Look for sinking or sagging.
- Exits – Check the exits of the deck (usually stairs). Are they sagging? Does the rail need replacing?
- Rails – Look at the rail posts and rail sections and make sure everything is tight and not loose or wobbly.
Again, if you have any questions regarding the safety of your deck, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.
Over the last few weeks there have been a few stories of deck collapses in the news where people were injured. We’ve talked about the importance of making sure your deck is safe to use, but safety in your outdoor living space doesn’t end at the deck.
A friend of mine spends a lot of time in his backyard doing projects. He’s cleaned up a lot of the dead trees and branches, cut back bushes and much more. After he removed a large tree, he decided to make a fire pit out of the stumps. For a while it was fine, but eventually the stumps burned up as well and parts of his yard were scorched that weren’t meant to be. Luckily no one was hurt and there haven’t been any more fires in the pit sense, but it did get me thinking about safety. Now I’m not DIYer, but I know a lot of people that really enjoy building things outdoors, but when building something you have to make sure that you are paying attention to local building codes, how you are going to use the space and what materials you are using.
Fire pits are one of the most commonly DIYed projects in outdoors. They’re small, so they must be easy to build, right? Wrong. Not all materials that people think would be fine for a fire pit are. You have to make sure you are getting the right type of stone, the right type of concrete, etc. Make sure that you talk to a professional about the best course of action to taking on that project.
Outdoor fireplaces, like indoor fireplaces, needs to be inspected from time to time to ensure their safety. Soot can build up in the flu and create blockages for the smoke. Also, because they are outdoors year round, they can be affected by the elements. Make sure you are checking for wear periodically.
Patios, walkways and retaining walls also need to be checked for safety periodically. People are constantly stepping on the edges of hardscapes (and sometimes sit on retaining walls). If the project is older some of the pavers or stones may become loose. If one slips when someone is on it, it can result in injury.
If you have any questions regarding the safety of your outdoor living areas, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office. We will come out and check it to see what changes you need to make now and help you plan for future changes and upgrades.
A recent article from the ARA titled “Remodeling for Aging in Place Today will Help Sell Your Home Tomorrow” discusses changes you can consider to make your home more appealing to an older generation of buyers. “Aging in Place” is a term used for “design features that make it easier for older adults to live on their own longer. These modifications are the fastest-growing segment of the home remodeling industry, says the National Association of Home Builders.” Source.
I can relate to Aging in Place. My parents moved a few years ago and needed to take their age into consideration. Will they want stairs in the house in a few years? Do you need more lights in certain areas? Are wider hallways necessary? They thought about it all. But aging in place design goes beyond the inside of the home. There are features that can be considered to make your outdoor living spaces more convenient as you age.
Stairs are necessary evils sometimes, but certain design features can make them easier on your knees or can provide more support. They can be built wider both length and width wise with a smaller height change. It may result in more stairs, but less pain. Additionally, easy-to-grip railings are a good way to make sure you can keep your balance as you age. My grandparents even had brackets attached to the side of their doorways to help pull themselves up into the house if they needed.
For those people that can’t use stairs at all, ramps are a good option, but they don’t have to be the normal wooden ramps that you so often see. You can have them designed so they flow seamlessly into your space. For instance, instead of the wood skeleton, stone walls may line the edges.
At Archadeck, creating designs that work for you and your family now and in the future is important. How you’ll use the space in 5, 10, 20 years is an important thing to consider when you are investing a significant amount of money so make sure you tell your contractor your future plans.
If you have questions about aging in place design, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.