The Backyard Deck Expands Your Interior Living Space

 

With more than 50 million  residential decks in the U.S., the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that around 20 million decks across the country may be structurally unsound, well-past their expected life span, violate code or have deteriorated over time and may have a potential hazard.

As our thoughts turn to spending time out of doors – BBQs, comfy outdoor furniture, beautiful flower pots, friends and family gathering to share time on the deck – often used, perhaps even taken for granted, the backyard deck serves us loyally underfoot.

This year, people have been asked to stay at home in a way never done before and the CDC stay-at-home guidelines have meant homeowners are out on their decks earlier in the season than ever before and for longer stretches of time. The deck quickly converted to an “outdoor” room to provide additional square footage, fresh air and a different perspective (or view, literally) on the quarantine.

 

1. Deck Safety Month: A Reminder to Homeowners Safety Always Comes First

Inspector checking integrity of deck structure
Inspector Inspects Deck Foundation

 

May is designated Deck Safety Month, sponsored by the North American Deck & Railing Association (NADRA), and encourages homeowners to make sure to have their deck inspected by a professional to identify and fix any hazards before any problems arise. If you suspect your deck shows any warning signs, don’t attempt to handle the problem yourself. Hire a professional who’s familiar with the coding laws in your area and you can then be sure your outdoor deck can be fully enjoyed safely.

Homeowners can visit NADRA’s website to download their free safety checklist to be on top of any safety issues that could occur. Here are two links for homeowner deck safety checklists: https://www.nadra.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/shapeimage_3.png  and https://www.nadra.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NADRA_DSM_Checklist.pdf

 

 

2. Structural Signs Your Backyard Deck Might Be Unsafe

To avoid testing the limits of an older deck and potentially put loved ones at risk, it’s important to endure certain parts of the decking floor have been attached correctly, make sure that metal sections such as connectors and bolts show no sign of rust, and keep an eye out for rotten wood.

Unusual noises,creaking, movement, warped  or weak boards and wobbly railings are all important to look for to determine deck safety issues. Loose or damaged railings or steps are a safety hazard for children and the elderly as there is greater risk of falling.

Examine your deck to confirm it has the proper structural connections. If you don’t see the standard bolts and metal connector plates supporting your deck and only see nails, your deck is structurally unsound. Additionally, look at the wood posts supporting the weight of your deck and make sure they’re not off center on their concrete footing. If you don’t have any concrete footing at all and your posts are touching ground, this is usually a coding violation.

Deck Ledger Board "U" Hangar
Ledger Board “U” Hangar
Ledger Board:
          • Decks whether new or existing, key to its construction is the ledger board. The ledger board is the main anchor to a deck and must be properly installed. (Fact: 90% of all deck failures are from the separation of the ledger board from the home. Info supplied by NACHI).
          • A ledger board should be bolted into the main frame of the home such as a rim joist whether it’s a first floor or second floor deck.
          • If it’s an existing deck check for bolts that may have become loose, corroded or may have the wood around it show signs of rot.
          • Ledger Boards should never be bolted on top of the homes siding material.
          • All deck rafters should be should be installed with steel “U” hangers for the correct support.
Flashing:
          • There should be some form of flashing or membrane material to protect the home from water damage.
          • Check underneath the deck for signs of flashing.
          • Check for water damage where the deck meets the home.
Deck Foundation Concrete Pier
Deck Foundation Concrete Pier
Deck Foundations:
          • The best construction for decks foundation is concrete piers. These piers should be 6” or larger depending on the decks load and at least 36” deep.
          • Steel brackets should be installed to protect the decks wood posts. Make sure these connectors are in good condition.
Split Wood or Rotting:
          • Check the entire deck for any splitting or rotting wood.
          • Check all fasteners and braces for corrosion.
Railings:
          • Check all railings for strength and stability.
          • All Railings should be 36” in height. Balusters should be no more than 4” apart.
          • Railings should have the ability to support 200lbs.
Deck Stairs
Deck Stairs
Stairs:
          • Check all stair trends for rot and or splits.
          • Check for loose or uneven stairs.
Proper Maintenance Helps Ensure Deck Longevity
          • If your deck is wood it would be beneficial to protect it with stain, varnish or sealants. There are many products on the market. Whichever product you choose it should be applied on an annual basis.
          • Make sure no part of the deck is touching the ground surfaces as this will promote rotting.

 

3. Proper Maintenance Helps Ensure Deck Longevity

Deck Power Wash
Deck Being Power Washed

 

After a long winter some decks will accumulate moss or just get dirty. Whether it is wood, trex or a composite, power washing the deck with the proper solutions is the best way to keep it clean and free from debris. There are also many products on the market and experts recommend homeowners should clean their decks at least twice a year, preferably in the spring and fall. 

6 Cleaners for a Dirty Deck

Visit https://www.thespruce.com/best-cleaners-for-your-outdoor-deck-2736283 for the recipes for the following suggestions.
      1. Natural cleaners, Baking Soda, Vinegar and Dish Soap, can be used on the outdoor deck to tackle mildew and algae.
      2. Borate is an all-purpose natural cleaner that can be added to water to address small areas of your deck at a time.
      3. Pressure or Power Washer can be used starting at the center of the deck and direct the spray to both ends, hitting all areas. (This should be done prior to applying a cleaner or brightener.)
      4. Oxygen bleach products are considered to be safer for the environment. Although they may not be the best remedy for stubborn mold and algae that is set into a wood deck, but with frequent regular use, build up of mildew and algae shouldn’t occur quite so often.
      5. “Spray-and-Forget-It Products” allow you to clean your deck without much effort. Some help with stain from mold and mildew, others repel rain and snow. Some claim to be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
      6. The most effective product at killing mold, Tri Sodium Phosphate or TSP, is a powder-based cleaner.  However, TSP is not considered an especially environmental choice and has a precautions on the back of its box. But if the deck has not been cleaned in a long time and algae is visible, it may have to occasionally be used, with care and caution.

Advice Tip: Maintain the deck more often, including sweeping, and you may avoid having to treat it with something strong like trisodium phosphate.

 

4. “Inside” Activities have Moved Outside to Help with Quarantine Fatigue

Working Remotely From the Backyard Deck
Working Remotely From the Backyard Deck
Craft Project from the Backyard Deck
Craft Projects
Teen Haircut from the Backyard Deck
Haircuts

Now that you have addressed the components of your deck to insure safety for yourself and loved ones, you can fully enjoy your additional outside square footage.

Expanded deck use means people have brought many of their typically “inside” activities outside with them. People have taken haircuts, office work, school work and arts and crafts right outside onto the deck.

Exercise, particularly important at a time when people are staying inside their home for much longer periods of time than they are accustomed, isolated from others, and moving a lot less than normal, has significant health benefits. During this time of quarantine, the deck has become a space for a unique way of coping with the stay at home policy and helps provide a much-needed mental and physical release as an alternative exercise space.

Gym Membership to Your Deck

Yoga on the deck
Johner Images/Getty Images/Johner RF
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Whether you have a big deck or a small deck, there are a host of things to take advantage of your outdoor space and statistics show physical activity boosts the immune system and help reduce stress and anxiety, contributing to an overall more positive mindset.

Some outside deck exercise ideas include:

  • Make a “circuit training” course. Include stations for exercises like jumping jacks, jogging in place, squats and lunges, pushups and planks. You can carry small dumbbells, jumpropes and mats outside.
  • Stretch session with a chair require no special gym equipment! Check out this  chair stretch session by Greater Seattle YMCA with a kitchen chair on your back deck for this full body stretch workout. It is an easy way to help remedy hours of virtual work meetings at your desk. Even just five minutes of daily stretching can can help with how you feel.
  • A hula hoop workout, with or without the kids, exercise combined with upbeat music and laughing, can quickly turn into fun! And maybe a little competitive edge mixed in to see who lasts longest may amp up the fun meter! Either way, it’s easy and inexpensive.
  • If you are looking for high intensity training, that can be done on the deck easily as well. “Shape” has designed a particular outdoor HIIT workout that doesn’t require a single piece of equipment. Check out 12-minute workout from “Shape” magazine.

5. Ten Things to Consider Before You Build a Deck

Make plans before jumping into a deck project. Besides determining it’s a deck you want instead of a patio, you will need to establish a budget, select material, find a space to build it, and realize that this is likely the type of  DIY project where you’ll need to hire a professional.

1. Why Do You Want a Deck?

Reasons to build a deck might include entertaining, dining, as a pool or spa surround, privacy, or container gardening and each will need it’s own prerequisite for space. For example, does the dining table with chairs you are imaging for dining al fresco fit in the space where the deck could go?

2. Where is the best location?

Maybe there is really only one place a deck can go at your home. However, if you have some options, things to consider are size of your lot, Microclimates, exposure to sun and to shade, is the area very windy, what is the view, privacy of the deck and proximity to the house.

3. Budget

Factor in the extras before-hand. You don’t want to come up short in the middle of the project. A few things to consider for your deck-building project include the overall size of the deck, the Intricacy of the design, extras like built-in seating, flowerboxes and railings, your choice of materials and the cost of the contractor.

Deck Construction4. “DIY” Project or Professional Contractor

Choosing the right contractor means choosing someone who is going to do the job that has the appropriate skills. If  the deck will be built over water, in mud or clay, unstable soil or a high or multi-level deck, it may require special engineering. It will be best to hire a contractor.

5. Decking Materials

Consider what materials are available for you to use. In addition to the traditional choice of wood, other choices include weather-resistant woods (like redwood, cedar and cypress), pressure-treated woods and lumber (which contain wood and preservatives), hardwoods (like teak and Brazilian hardwoods), composite decking, which is made of recycled plastic and wood fiber and alternatives, like plastic and aluminum.

deck plans6. Deck Design, Size and Shape

Size will be determined by your deck’s location and your budget. Small space…small budget…small deck. Bigger space, bigger budget, and you have more options..
The best shape of a deck follows the lines and architecture of your house, a seamless transition from indoors to out. A well-designed deck complements rather than competes with the home’s architecture. It should coordinate with the surrounding landscape design all the while maintaining the integrity of a functional outdoor room. .

7. Extras: Railings, Roofs, Privacy Fencing and Other Deck Structures

Don’t forget there are some extras you may need. If the deck is a certain height off the ground, railings for safety will be needed. If the deck is located in full sun, you may need a roof of some kind to be built so that you can spend time on the deck in comfort. Additionally, if the deck is visible to your neighbors, and their yard is visible while on your own deck – you may want some type of privacy screening..

8. Building Codes and Legal Requirements

Be sure to check your city or county website for information about building permits, codes and other legal requirements related to adding or remodeling a residential structure. It’s best to research these requirements before buying materials or getting in too deep to the project.

9. Deck Lighting

Lighting does more than create atmosphere, it’s an issue of safety. Determine where you need it and what type of lighting you will want to use. It’s best to plan for both design and budget beforehand, and the cost of a licensed electrician to wire and install your outdoor lighting.
Types of lights available include recessed stair or step lights, path lights, overhead lights, wall or post-mounted lights, landscaping spotlights and outdoor kitchen lighting.

10.  Storage, Seating and Planter Boxes

If you’re going so far as to build a deck, consider storage. Lift-top benches, cabinets, closets or shelves can all be used to store garden tools and supplies, children’s outdoor toys, outdoor patio cushions and outdoor furniture and accessories. A built-in bench is practical and can serve as a railing. Planter boxes can also create a spot for your container garden.
For inspiration designing and building your deck check out https://www.thespruce.com/get-inspired-outdoor-deck-designs-ideas-4062143.

Enjoy Your Deck!

It is crucial for homeowners to have their decks regularly inspected by a professional to verify the integrity of their deck and ensure user safety. NADRA’s Deck Safety Campaign  creates the opportunity to “Educate. Inspect. Correct“, and this helps the homeowner plan and implement safety steps.
Regular deck maintenance and care together with proper cleaning regimes and products will help extend your deck’s life-span, improve appearance, and increase livability for years to come.
Creativity and flexibility has helped many traditionally “inside” activities move outside to the deck, literally expanding square footage, increase time spent outside and extend the outdoor season, particularity pleasing as we continue to stay at home more. And with added insight into your potential  needs, planning for a deck project can really be a lot of fun!
Enjoy your decks and enjoy your summer! 
Boy lying on the deck

 

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