Summer is already here, and this is the time of year that Queenslanders love to get out on their decks with family and friends.
So if you are planning on holding a holiday celebration on the deck at your property, now is the time to get your deck checked.
Decks and balconies require regular and effective maintenance to help ensure their long-term safety. The frequency of this maintenance depends on the materials, type of finish, climate and the degree of exposure to the weather.
Fixings, including post brackets, should be free from rust, bending or fractures.
Rust may occur more rapidly if you live in a coastal region, although there are products that can be applied to metal fixings or components to slow or prevent this process.
For a weather-exposed deck or balcony, all fixings such as nuts, bolts, screws and nails should be metal with non-corroding properties. In most cases, hot-dipped galvanised fasteners should be used; however, in some highly-corrosive coastal atmospheres, stainless steel fixings will be needed.
Check for bending or stress of post brackets. In most cases, these brackets will be above ground level which will make visual inspection easier.
Inspect nuts, bolts, screws and nails for signs of deterioration. These fasteners can be integral to the deck or balcony, and need to be free from deterioration. Rusting metal can be easier to find as it may leave a mark on the connecting timber or paint. Identify, repair and replace these areas as soon as possible.
During an inspection, it is also good practice to remove bolts to see their internal condition.
Deterioration and subsequent failure of posts can result in death or serious injury to people and damage to property. Timber should be treated appropriately if in the ground or be of a species that will not degrade in soil.
Check timber posts for decay where bearers and other timbers are in contact with posts. Signs of decay include a fungus-type growth on the timber, timber becoming spongy and fibrous, and failure of the timber. Steel posts in the ground should be checked for signs of rust and deterioration as water can pool around these areas.
Bracing is often used to support a deck or balcony, helping prevent it from moving under load.
Decks and balconies can come under considerable stress from swaying or twisting. It is important to inspect any bracing of a deck or balcony to ensure there has not been any excessive structural movement. If bracing fails, there is a significant risk of harm being caused to people and property.
· warped, cracked or damaged bracing elements
· fixings that are coming loose or deteriorating
· cracked or rusted welds.
Bearers and joists
Bearers support the joists, which in turn support the decking. To maintain the integrity of the decking, it is vital for bearers and joists to be in good condition and free from defects, such as warping, cracking and decay.
Ledgers or pole plates
Decks and balconies are often attached to the main external walls of the house or other structure, such as a pool, by supporting joists or bearers off ledgers or pole plates.
Ledgers and pole plates must have adequate structural connections to their supporting structure, which may mean connecting them through the external wall cladding to the structural frame of the house.
While it is common for brick veneer houses with a deck to just use a masonry fastener (expanding anchor) to connect the ledger or pole plate, this is not usually an acceptable or structurally adequate connection.
Decking boards are the direct link between inhabitants and the structure, and timber boards should be regularly inspected for decay. Signs of decay include a fungus-type growth on the timber, timber becoming spongy and fibrous, and failure of the timber. Using a screwdriver or chisel to poke suspect timber can assist in identifying decay.
Call in a professional
If you are planning to carry out renovation or repair work on your deck or balcony, make sure you choose a QBCC-licensed contractor.
After you have any work done on your deck or balcony, remember to take photos once the work has been completed. Photos are useful reference points when carrying out later inspections to identify any changes or movement of components.
You may also wish to have your deck checked by an appropriately licensed contractor.