Tips to prevent your deck from collapsing

(ANGIE'S LIST) - Every year we hear about decks collapsing, and injuring or even killing people.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says thousands of people are hurt on decks each year.  Some 40 million decks are at least 20 years old, and don't comply with current building codes.

But problems can be prevented, and maintenance is the key. The consumer website Angie's List, offers advice on how to keep your deck safe.

Tom Booker builds decks.  He tells people the best way to avoid a disaster, is to make sure the deck is properly secured with nuts and bolts – not nails – at the ledger.  The ledger is the board that sits against the house and connects to the deck.

"The deck collapses because it detaches from the house at the ledger, so it is the most critical connection of the entire deck," Booker says.

But a deck doesn't have to collapse for it to cause injury. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors say that only 40 percent of existing decks are safe.  Railing failures are a more common problem.  This safety issue can be addressed, with regular maintenance.

"You should inspect your deck at least once a year, and be sure to check the flooring where the deck meets the house. Make sure there's not water getting in there because if it does, the wood might rot and cause damage," says Angie Hicks of Angie's List.

You can do a quick check for signs of decay on a wood deck by exposing the post where it goes into the ground and then pushing a screwdriver into it.  If you can push into the wood, you have a problem that needs some professional attention.

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