LESLIE: Alright, you guys. While you’re online, make sure you head on over to MoneyPit.com. You can post your question, email your question and we love to answer them. And I’m going to start with one here from Sherry and David. And they posted a question to the Money Pit Community on MoneyPit.com about their deck. They write: “We’ve just purchased a home that’s about 22 years old, with a wood deck that the owners added a few years ago. We’d love to entertain but some of the boards are cracked. And we’re wondering what we need to do to make sure the deck is safe.”
TOM: You know, I am so glad to hear you guys think that way. Because I live near the shore and there’s lots of resort properties around here and there’s lot of parties that go on in these houses that are rented. And all across the country, every once in a while – Fourth of July, whatever – you’re going to have a big group on that deck. And in every single year – every year in the summer – we hear about one or more very serious deck collapses. People get hurt, people die and the story is always the same, right? “Oh, it was fine. We’re just out there having a good time and then bam, the thing goes down.”
So, after a season of snow and ice and salt and sand, it’s really important to give your deck a safety check. And it’s actually not that hard to do. You can do some of these basic steps yourself.
LESLIE: Yeah. You really want to make sure that everything is just stable and in good form. So first of all, you want to check under your deck for split or rotted beams, as well as any corroded fasteners.
Now, the fasteners are going to be the metal parts that keep sort of the joists or the pieces that support the floorboards together to all of the side framing. So make sure that everything there is intact. You want to look at nails, screws, even the bolts, because they can come loose over time. So pay extra attention to where that deck attaches to your house to see if there’s any signs of weakness.
TOM: Yeah. And I’ll give you a home inspector’s trick of the trade. You know what my favorite structural-inspection tool was, Leslie? A long screwdriver.
LESLIE: Right. Just poking at things?
TOM: I would just poke at things and poke at things and poke at it. I’d make the homeowners nervous because they thought I was destroying their house when I’m like, “Well, if it wasn’t rotted, my screwdriver wouldn’t have gone in.” But I would go under that deck and I would check the floor joists, especially where they get close to the house, because that’s where you get a lot of decay. And just stab that thing. I mean it should be rock solid. You shouldn’t go through it. It shouldn’t be affected by moisture, by decay, by insects. So, stab away and make sure it’s solid.
Check the railings. Check the banisters. Make sure the steps are secure. If you’ve got any cracked deck boards, trick of the trade: you can take those out and flip them over because since there was no sun exposure on the bottom side, that back side, even if it’s a 20-year-old deck, will look just as good as the day it went down.
And then lastly, do a bit of cleanup, right? You want to use a hose, a broom, remove all those leaves, get rid of the moss, the mold, the algae. You can use a commercial solution. You can use a 10-percent bleach solution, you can use laundry detergent. Just clean it up and you’re good to go.