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Top 10 Most Common Structural Issues With Decks

Decks give you peace when you most need it. But if there’s one thing that can ruin all that, it is knowing that your deck has some structural issues and is not so safe anymore.

After all these years of building and repairing decks, here at Riverview Decks, we’ve noticed there are some common structural issues with a deck that we keep on finding.

If you have an old deck and are worried about how safe it is to spend time on it, check out these top 10 most common structural issues with a deck and how you can fix them.

A pool deck with poorly maintained decking boards

#1. Lack Of Maintenance On Wood Decks And Patios

Wood decks and patios require regular maintenance to stay in good condition. This includes power washing, sanding, staining, and sealing the wood decking surface every two to three years.

Doing this can help protect your deck from moisture, mold, mildew, and insect damage. Not only regular maintenance increases your deck’s lifespan, but it also keeps it looking at its best for a long time.

Not respecting a thorough maintenance schedule will cause your deck boards to rot and decay, causing a major hazard for you, your loved ones, and everyone else that uses your deck. Warped deck boards are another issue that lack of maintenance brings.

#2. Water Exposure

Water exposure is a major issue in wood decks, patios, and other outdoor living spaces. When the wood decking boards has consistent contact with water – either through direct contact or humidity in the air – it can speed up rot, decay, and warping.

This can occur even quicker when the wood is improperly treated and sealed for waterproofing.

Water exposure can mean anything from abundant rain to spilling a large quantity of water on your wood deck and letting it sit. The best way to avoid water exposure on your deck is to rapidly remove any water that sits on it.

a wet outdoor deck

#3. Clogged Gutters

While this is not really a structural issue with a deck, it can definitely cause one.

Clogged gutters are filled with dirt and debris, like leaves. This leads to an overflowed gutter where water will randomly drop from it, instead of being diverted to wherever you collect rainwater or in the yard.

Clogged gutters can prevent them from draining properly and let water accumulate in areas near your deck, causing water exposure, and then rot.

In order to prevent this from happening, you must regularly clean your gutters and keep them free of debris. This will ensure that water doesn’t pool around your deck and cause damage in the long run.

#4. Water Near The Footings

Having water near the wooden deck footings and deck posts is dangerous for a couple of reasons.

In order to prevent this, you must make sure you install proper drainage near your deck footings and keep them clear of any leaves or other debris that might clog up the drainage system. If you leave this issue unattended, your deck can shift and move, potentially causing a catastrophe.

#5. Loose Nailings

Loose nailings can cause the boards on the deck to become loose and sag, creating a hazardous situation. It can also allow water or moisture to enter the deck, speeding up the rot and decay.

To fix this issue, tighten all the nails sticking out. If they are too far gone, you may have to replace them. You should also check for any missing nails and replace them as soon as possible to prevent further damage from occurring.

You can easily spot loose nails by just looking at your deck. Take a few minutes and pay attention to the decking surface and the space beneath your deck framing to see if there are any nails that need your attention.

On composite decking, you’ll most likely use deck screws, which are much harder to unscrew and get loose.

#6. Poorly Installed Deck Railings

Poorly installed deck railings can be a major liability for any property owner. In order to ensure that your deck railings are properly installed, you’ll need to work with an experienced contractor or builder who can provide the appropriate materials and reliable installation services.

An improperly installed railing system may not have enough support, which could potentially cause it to collapse and injure someone who is using the deck.

Railings should also be anchored securely to the ground by posts or supports, ensuring they are firmly in place and can withstand strong winds or other disturbances.

All railing systems must meet local building codes regarding height requirements. This is especially important for decks with multiple levels or stairs.

#7. Poor Ledger Board Installation

The ledger board is an important structural component of a deck, as it connects the deck to the house. It is typically constructed from pressure-treated lumber and is attached to the rim joist of the house with lag bolts. The ledger board also serves as a support for many of the deck’s components, including railings, stairs, and skirting.

If the ledger board isn’t properly installed – if it is missing bolts or screws or is not connected correctly to the house – over time, the entire deck can be pulling away from your house without you even noticing.

Make sure that whoever installs the ledger board on your deck knows exactly what they’re doing, and regularly check the ledger board for any signs of wear.

Ledger board

#8. Poor Flashing installation

Flashing is an important part of deck building and construction. It is a thin, impermeable material that creates a barrier between the ledger board and the house. Flashing helps to prevent moisture from getting into the wood or other materials used in the deck’s construction.

If the flashing is not properly installed, it can leave your deck vulnerable to water damage that could result in costly deck repairs or, worse, a complete replacement of the entire deck.

If the flashing has deteriorated, it means the ledger board is probably in a bad state as well, so you might need to replace both.

#9. Joist Boards

Joist boards are an important part of a deck’s structural foundation. They are horizontal beams that span the distance between two points and provide support for the deck. They also support its components, including railings and stairs, and provide a firm platform for the deck surface to be installed upon.

Keep in mind that in every six inches of a joist board, a screw goes into it, so it’s highly possible that the joist board can be split open and possibly even rotten. Taping the top of the floor joists provides a long-term waterproof solution that boosts the water resistance of your deck’s frame.

On the other side, if the joist boards are not properly maintained, they’ll need to be completely replaced after a couple of years, otherwise, the deck can become unstable.

#10. Keep The Deck Off Of The Wet Soil

Keeping the deck off wet soil is essential to its long-term stability and durability. When soil is wet, it can become overly saturated with water and shift, causing the deck to move out of alignment.

Additionally, if there are any cracks in the deck, water can seep into them and cause rot and decay.

The best way to avoid this from happening is to add a drainage system underneath the deck to keep it from becoming overwhelmed with moisture.

A home with a two-story deck on a large patch of grass

Bottom Line

These are just 10 common structural issues with a deck, but the reality is much worse. We’ve worked on decks that were so damaged and insecure that we had to tear them apart and start from zero.

The best way to ensure your deck doesn’t represent a hazard for your and your loved ones is to regularly have someone inspect it.

Here at Riverview Decks, we offer a thorough deck inspection to uncover everything that’s wrong with your deck and give you a space that’s 100% safe to spend time on. We’ll ensure your deck remains stable and safe and sound.

Get in touch with us at (865) 801-4545 if you’re ready to check your deck and bring it to its former glory! Request a quote now!