‘Tis the season for being outside as much as possible. If you have a deck at home, you know this is prime time for putting it to good use. During the summer, the deck can become the most popular “room” in the house – for cookouts, parties, or kicking back and relaxing at the end of a long day. There’s nothing like being outside to clear your head and soak up the season, but if you want true peace of mind, you need to make sure your deck is built correctly.

As structural engineers, it’s our job to evaluate if a deck is in good condition and determine whether modifications or repairs are needed. Like any outdoor structure, the wear-and-tear from year-round weather exposure, usage, and time can add up. Getting it right from the start can make a big difference down the road in terms of safety and durability.

Frank Woeste, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech, estimates “90% of deck collapses result from the failure of the deck ledger-to-house connection.” In most cases, he says this is caused by nail-only ledgers and not tying the deck into the house floor system. His recent article in The Component Manufacturing Advertiser reports that until 2007, the International Residential Code “did not specify how contractors should fasten or connect the deck ledger to the house.” Because of this, many decks built prior to 2007 were not connected in compliance with current safety standards.

Having a nail-only deck ledger is one important reason to have your deck evaluated. Woeste says you can determine whether your deck is nail-only “if only nail heads are present on the surface of your deck ledger.” If this is the case, a structural engineer can visit your home to determine the best course of action. Your deck may need to be replaced entirely or, in many cases, retrofitted to ensure safety.

Ledger connections are just one of the many things our team looks for when completing a deck inspection. We also evaluate the condition of the wood, loose connections, existing connectors and their conditions, footings, and lateral stability. Our specialized engineers have completed numerous deck projects across Central Virginia and beyond. We can recommend retrofit options or a new deck design to ensure code compliance of your deck.

Our job is to keep your deck secure so you can focus on what this time of year is all about: having fun. We’re your go-to team to make sure your time on the deck this summer is not only memorable, but also safe.

For more information to see if your deck is in code compliance and ultimately safe, see Simpson Strong-Tie’s Deck Connection and Fastening Guide.

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