When summer finally gets here, Vermonters flock to their decks to relax, socialize, barbecue and watch the gorgeous New England sunsets. But it is easy to forget the necessary maintenance that will keep your deck in top shape. Here is a quick checklist that will help you spot problems before they become your worst nightmare:
One of the best ways to prevent wood rot is by applying stain on an annual basis. But if it does creep into your decking or corner posts, it should be repaired right away. Not doing so can compromise the overall structural integrity making your deck dangerous. Press a screwdriver into any spot that feels soft. If it sinks in, you’ve got a problem. That’s a good time to call a professional to examine and fix it.
The metal brackets that support the decking underneath are called joist hangers. If you take a look, you will also see carriage bolts that fasten the deck to the building. Fasteners can sometimes loosen off or pull away from it. Also, corrosion of these metal fasteners and hangers will occur if the fasteners are not compatible with the wood. Many people put rock salt on their porch in the winter to keep a path clear and avoid slipping. This will probably not affect the material. However, the salt falling through the cracks can corrode these metal brackets. Everything may look okay from above, but the fasteners may be rusting underneath. If any fasteners appear to be pulling away or corroding, you should not use the deck until it is inspected and repaired by a professional. Simpson fasteners made a great video that shows you what to look for.
If your deck heaves every year or a concrete post looks like it is coming out of the ground at an angle, chances are your concrete was not deep enough or did not have rebar in it. Do not use the porch until it is repaired, as the support posts could slide off the concrete posts and cause it to collapse.
If the support posts are not appropriately fastened to the concrete footings, or the deck is not attached correctly to the house, this also needs to be repaired as soon as possible. Also, make sure your support posts are bolted to the frame. Sometimes these posts are just nailed in, and nails can pull out of the posts over time.
The best system to use is a “through bolt.” Holes are drilled into the ledger board, though the wall, and into the house. Then we insert bolts and fasten them on the inside of the wall, or attach them to blocking on the inside of the house. Doing this will prevent your porch from pulling away.