Deck Collapses

BYRON DUERKSEN, ACI, CMI

ASHI CERTIFIED INSPECTOR,
NACHI CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL INSPECTOR
CERTIFIED THERMOGRAPHER

707.245.7545 (cell) or 707.987.9970 (office)



God Bless America!

 

UNSAFE DECK CONSTRUCTION IS PERVASIVE IN OLDER
AND NEWER HOMES
AND ROTTEN WOOD IN OLDER DECKS
CREATE POTENTIAL FOR INJURIES OR DEATH

BUT SO CAN INCORRECT

FASTENERS ON NEW DECKS

IT CAN HAPPEN IN A SPLIT SECOND WITHOUT ANY WARNING.  THE DECK SUDDENLY COLLAPSES TO THE GROUND, INJURING AND SOMETIMES KILLING THE PEOPLE WHO WERE ON IT.

TODAY   |  Aired on August 14, 2012

Rossen Reports: Protect family from deck collapses

Outdoor decks are collapsing and every summer, more people are being hurt. NBC’s Jeff Rossen investigates these accidents and offers ways to protect your family and friends from being severely injured in seconds.  CLICK HERE TO VIEW TODAY SHOW VIDEO. 

An unsafe deck is a critical safety hazard, not just a nuisance.  A professional home inspection will give you the information you need.

 


ROTTEN WOOD CAUSES DEATH TO SAN RAFAEL WOMAN IN S.F. DECK COLLAPSE

The Landlord is a General Contractor and is charged with manslaughter.  The balconies were approximately 13 feet square and constructed of exposed timber framing. Prior to collapse, the fourth-floor balcony was supported by a ledger attached to the back of the building and three wood posts on the outboard side. A 4x12 timber beam below the third-floor balcony originally supported the outboard posts of the 4th floor deck. However, during the summer before the accident, the beam had been moved out from below the post, probably to widen an entryway being constructed on the second floor. With the beam moved, only the badly decayed blocking between the deck joists supported the northernmost post.

 

The collapse occurred because the decayed blocking did not have the strength to support the weight of the deck plus occupants. Even in the absence of decay, the load-carrying mechanism provided by the blocking was grossly deficient in terms of standard engineering practice. The deck weighed approximately 1500 pounds, and the occupant weight was approximately 2500 pounds. The weight of the occupants was less than one-fourth the building code requirement for design live load.

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SANTA ROSA DECK COLLAPSES

A deck collapsed overnight at an apartment complex on Corby Avenue rendering two apartments uninhabitable, Thursday, March 15, 2012.


In a separate collapse, a Saturday Night Dance Party came to a chaotic halt when the second story deck collapsed with dozens of young people mixed in with the falling timber and railings.

 
It was reported that someone had a broken neck.  What was certain according to arriving authorities was the damage and the fact ambulances took numerous injured to hospitals for treatment.  A professional Home Inspection likely could have prevented this kind of tragedy from occurring.  It is reported that decks cause more injuries and loss of life than any other part of the home structure.  In my experience of inspecting hundreds of decks I find many of them are not safe although to the untrianed individual they look great.
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 CLEARLAKE STAIR COLLAPSE FORCES EVACULATION

Residents of a Cedar Village Apartment on Old Hwy 53 were evacuated shortly after 10 am when a stairway collapsed.  An unidentified man was walking down the stairs when the section fell approximately eight feet to the ground.   Evacuation of the second floor was completed by use of a ladder.

According to to one firefighter on the scene, the wood appeared to have been rotten and there were no L- brackets supporting the staircase.  This is an apartment complex that was built within the last few years.  Obviously the proper brackets and flashings were never installed thus creating a severe safety hazard.  The proper flashings would have prevented moisture intrusion during storms and thus have prevented the rot.

It is of critical importance that all stairways be examined by a profesional home inspector during  your home inspection.  It is not enough to look at the stairs and walk down them and pronounce them safe and sound.  That could be a tragic mistake.

Offficials further state investigation shows it was improperly constructed and was not safe to use.  As a Certifed Master Inspector who has built many large decks and inspected even more, I do not find this surprising.
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Decks are popular, they can be a lot of fun, a good one is costly, they require upkeep and most importantly they can be very dangerous.  This event caused many injuries, an 18 year old girl may loose her foot.  The attorney's that will follow will get huge settlements.  Many decks are built without a permit, built by homeowners or handymen who mean well but do not know how to build the deck.  They do not know the proper lumber size, the spans between supports, the correct hangers, rust proof bolts with washers, and the spacing required.  Many more items of major importance are often ignored or left out.

Several lessons should be learned from this tragedy.  FIRST, a building permit should be obtained and a qualified deck builder should do the construction.  SECOND, when buying an existing home you should always retain the most qualified Home Inspector available.  Select a Home Inspector who has  been certified by a recognized and respected Home Inspection Association such as ASHI .

It is estimated that of the 40 million existing decks in America only about half of them are code compliant, thus many of these decks are potentially unsafe.  More than a million decks are built each year, a large percentage are built by home owners and individuals who are neither trained nor qualified to build them.  "DECKS CAUSE MORE INJURIES AND LOSS OF LIFE THAN ANY OTHER PART OF THE HOME STRUCTURE"  reports Don Bender, Director, Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory, Washington State University.  Because a reported 44,700 deck injuries occur each year, it is imperative that a deck be properly inspected for safe Deck materials, method of construction, flashing, support posts and beams, size of materials in relation to span of beam or joint and proper care and maintenance.  When any of these is incorrect, it can be life threatening.  For more information on deck construction, click on Links or visit Simpson Strong Ties at www.SafeStrongHome.com /deck. 

NEVER BUY WITHOUT A PROFESSIONAL HOME INSPECTION.