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It's SPRING and time for a deck check—7 "Do you…?" questions you need to answer

Rosario Ungaro - Thursday, April 21, 2016

It's spring and it's time to maintain your deck. Here are 7 "Do you…?" questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do you inspect your deck at least once per year? To extend your deck's life span and get the most out of your deck we recommend that you inspect your deck at least twice per year and maintain it as required: fixing minor wear and tear damage, refinishing as required to preserve the aesthetics and integriity of the wood, and making sure the deck is safe? Our suggestion is to do a comprehensive inspection in the spring (Because the winter can play havoc on your deck) and a more maintenance-oriented inspection in the fall when you're closing your deck for the winter. (E.g., Clearing the deck of objects that can leave stains and cleaning it of debris and leaves, etc., that can cause mold/mildew.) 
  2. Failure to maintain your deck can lead to wood rot that can cause structural damageDo you ever stand back and take an objective look at your deck's condition? Actually, obvious is a little misleading. Just like when you gain a pound a month over twenty-four months, you don't really see the change in yourself in the mirror, we can be faced with the same thing when we visually inspect our deck. We are so used to seeing the same old thing we may easily miss what, to others, may be quite obvious. This means that you have to consciously put on your inspectors goggles and look at your deck with fresh eyes. 
Before we get into some of the nitty gritty of what you should be looking for, look at the big picture. Is the deck level across the back of your house? If one side is lower than the other then it may indicate that there is a ledger problem. Does your deck sag anywhere? If you were to get a good hold on the deck, can you move it? Does it move or sway when you walk on it? All of these things can indicate there are problems. 

  3. Do you know the condition of the wood in your deck? A search in Google Images for "deck collapses" will quickly (and graphically) illustrate the catastrophic results of a deck poorly maintained—or potentially poorly constructed. (If you have any concerns about the construction of your deck you should get a professional inspection.) 
Although wood is a great building material and the traditional material for building decks (although low-maintenance, wood-alternative materials and composite decks are becoming more and more common), wood is prone to damage as a result of rotting, molding, shifting, warping, splintering, fading/discolouring, and damage from pests like termites and other wood borers. It is imperative that you check your deck's wood for any damage in order to repair any damage and ensure your deck is safe and gives you the longest life possible. What should you check? You should check the ledger boards (where your deck attaches to the house), the support posts—especially if there is any earth-wood contact, joists—especially around fasteners, deck boards, railings, bannisters, and stairs. 
Mold is especially likely to occur on parts of the deck that stay damp because of over hanging tree branches, eaves, or continously being in the shade. Trimming back trees can help to prevent mold from happening in the first place. 
To test if your wood is OK use a tool like an ice pick that can penetrate the wood but not make too big of a hole. If the  pick can penetrate the wood from 6.35mm to 12.7mm you may have an issue. If, by levering out a small piece of the wood, it comes out without splintering then you have a problem—likewise if the wood feels soft and spongy. 
You also want to check for pest damage—especially if you have any wood-earth contact. Small holes can give you a clue as can a sawdusty substance around your deck. 

  4. Do you check your deck's flashing? 
Deck flashing directs water away from your deck and prevents moisture and debris build-up. It is often used at the ledger where the deck attaches to the house. When a deck shifts as a result of freezing and thawing over a winter with fluctuating temperatures, the flashing can be damaged. This can result in the flashing not doing its job resulting in wood damage or rot at a very critical part of the supporting structure. To minimize long-term damage and make sure that your deck remains safe be sure to check your flashing every year and repair any damaged flashing. 

  5. Do you check your deck's fasteners as a part of your inspection? 
First off, your deck's fasteners include such things as the nails, screws, and the anchors used in the ledger board. Check if they are rusted or corroded. Check the wood around them as rusted or corroded fasteners can affect it to. Also check the deck's surface and make sure that none of the fasteners are sticking up causing an injury hazard. Replace or fix any fasteners you feel are a problem. A protruding fastener might lead to a hurt foot. But, corroded ledger fasteners fasteners could result in a deck's collapse. If in doubt call a pro. 

  6. Do you check the bannisters, railings and stairs? 
Bannisters, railings, and stairs, if not maintained, can easily become a potential hazard. For bannisters and railings check to see if you are able to wiggle them. If they wiggle it may be an indication that the fasteners have corroded or need tightening. Secure and safe bannisters and railings are especially important if the deck is high off the ground or is a second story deck. Local by-laws also apply when the deck is more than a certain height. Be sure to check that your deck meets your local building code. 

For stairs, be sure that all risers, treads, and stringers are firmly attached and that there is no decay. If there is any evidence of decay it should be fixed to ensure your deck's safety. 

  7. Do you like how your deck looks? OK, so you’ve completed your deck check and repaired what was necessary to make sure your deck is safe but you’re still not happy with how it looks. There are a lot of advertised products that can refresh the look of your deck. Few, however, can protect your deck as well as Cutek Extreme Deck and Wood Protection Oil. Cutek Extreme Wood Protection Oil and Cutek ProClean Stain Remover is now available for sale in Toronto from Benchmark Building Services Inc. Saying that we’ve scoured the world looking for the absolute BEST wood protecting and preserving product for your deck, fences, and outdoor woodwork may be a little bit of an overstatement—but not much. Cutek Extreme Wood Protection Oil hails from down under and was originally developed in Australia to treat Bamboo. Bamboo is VERY hard and virtually all products were ineffective when used with it. This left an unfilled need in the market and was the reason Cutek was developed. The result is a deep-penetrating oil that can penetrate even the hardest of woods. It is not a deck stain (although it can be colour-toned) it is a deep-penetrating oil. The Cutek Extreme Wood Protection Oil product sold in Canada is a derivative of the original product that has its deep penetrating capabilities but has been reformulated to be effective in Canada’s harsh climate. Read More.

That's all for now, until next time we'll Keep Building it Right™.

May is Deck Safety Month. Sponsored by The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA). Benchmark Building Services Inc. is a proud member of NADRA.


Note: NADRA's professional inspection checklist involves a five page checklist. The above is meant to give you some tips about how to look at your deck more critically and is in now way equal to or meant to be in lieu of a professional inspection. It is also not in any way meant to be all inclusive. We recommend that if you have any issues or concerns regarding your deck, its construction, or its safety, you get it professionally inspected.

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A word from Rosario…

Our Blog is about sharing some of what we have learned along the way. (Many contractors even call us for ideas or advice.) We hope it is informative and shows our commitment to continuous learning—something we do so we can bring the very latest and best to our customers. 

You've probably heard the phrase: 

"Some people have twenty-five years of experience. Others have one year of experience, twenty-five times over." 

If a contractor doesn't stay up-to-date on the latest building codes, trends, styles, tools, materials, and products, they'll soon find themselves in the latter category. We work hard to make sure that we are not. We regularly talk with our suppliers, go to industry trade shows, and share information and ideas with our peers to make sure that we stay on top of our game and can continue to bring you the very best in building craftsmanship and knowledge.

I welcome the opportunity to chat with you about your next building project.


Rosario Ungaro
Benchmark Building Services Inc.


Relax… we'll build it right!