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Š Michael J. Taffet

No Flashing or Water Channel:

The Purpose of this Booklet The following is not meant to scare but rather to inform. Many consumers simply compare contractor estimates based on price alone. There are serious consequences for poor deck construction. • Thousands of injuries and deaths occur each year directly related to improper and inadequate deck construction. At the very least, please make sure your project is constructed with a building permit!

ledger board incorrectly connected for lap siding application. Improperly installed flashing:

it should be behind the siding.

• The following are just a few of the many cases we've encountered in the Kansas City Metro area since 1997. • We lost these bids to competitors claiming to build the same quality as us but at a lower price (We'll let you be the judge). • We were called back later to resolve the faulty construction techniques and poor craftsmanship!

TIP #1: Be careful who you hire. The most expensive project is the one that has to be redone. The best priced deck is the one that requires the least amount of maintenance, lasts the longest, and adds the greatest value to your home.

Deck collapses have caused more than 350 reported injuries and 17 deaths over the past six years, according to a news release by the North American Deck and Railing Association and American Society of Home Inspectors, and Simpson Strong-Tie, a company that makes structural products. Nearly 85 percent of U.S. homes have a deck, balcony or patio, and an estimated 20 million of these need repair or rebuilding, the release said. Aubrey Cohen May 1, 2008

Legal Permit Compliance “What every homeowner should know!” There’s always been a huge misconception about why building permits are required. Today, there are a quickly growing number of builders who choose not to bother with properly passing building permits. Most likely to either avoid the time and cost involved or simply a negligent understanding of their importance. Some builders will give creative and elaborate excuses why you shouldn’t pull or pass a permit. Most decks REQUIRE permits by law. If your builder doesn’t want to pull permits, get another builder. If the builder is caught mid-construction working on an unpermitted deck, YOU may be required to tear it down and start over. If you are building your own deck and are caught mid-construction, you may be required to tear it down. More importantly, if someone is injured on a deck that you knowingly built or had built without permits, your insurance may not cover it. Worse yet, you can certainly be found legally liable. Make sure your builder passes all inspections that are required. Many jurisdictions mandate pier and structural inspections in order to satisfy the final inspection. A recent trend being noticed throughout the Johnson County, KS is that many deck builders are only pulling permits in order to perform the work without interruption. They have no intention of ever completing the permit. No Flashing or Water Channel Pulling a permit is the easy part and simply allows the work to begin. Passing a permit is more important because it oversees that a structure(s) is built correctly, safely, and to updated national building codes. Any building permit is worthless without completion of an approved final inspection and/or a Certificate of Occupancy. Most permits are null and void after 180 days of inactivity or failure to close properly. A satisfactorily completed permit is the only way to ensure your project is built safely and to current building codes. It’s also required to release a homeowner liable for personal injury or death. If you have any questions about the legitimacy or status of your building permit, simply call your local Community Development Department. That would be the city if within limit boundaries and your county if residing on unincorporated land.

DW Elite Decks


The deck ledger is so soft you can poke a screwdriver through it. Luckily, the rot hadn’t made it into the house yet. Many others are not so fortunate.

Avoid Deck Collapse Tragedies Through Self Inspection and Routine Maintenance Decks can even collapse when no one is standing on them which stresses the importance of making sure your deck is safe.

Insufficient Ledger Board Fasteners:

should be 1/2" lag bolt with washer or ledger lock every 16", and two every 32".

Because most decks are elevated it is almost impossible to avoid injury during a collapse. Injuries resulting from a porch or deck collapse can be fatal so care should be taken to regularly inspect and maintain your deck. Here are some tips and resources that will help you recognize the signs of a dangerous porch or deck so you and your loved ones can avoid injury. Decks collapse for a number of reasons from structural issues like rot and improper building techniques, to loose boards, excessive weight, and poor maintenance. If you are thinking about building your own deck you may want to get the help of a licensed and insured contractor. Having a contractor help you with the construction of your deck will help ensure proper methods are used to maximize safety. Choose a contractor that is licensed and insured with the state or county. Rachel Pickett July 19, 2007

The number of deck failures and resulting injuries has been increasing at an alarming rate. Between 2000 and 2008, there were at least 30 deaths reported as a direct result of deck collapses, and more than 75 percent of people on a deck when it collapses are injured or killed. With 40 million decks in the United States that are more than 20 years old, it's important for homeowners to check their deck. ~ NADRA May 2009

TIP #2: Check Credentials!

The following are some area associations. NADRA (North American Deck & Railing Association) NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) KBIA (Kansas Building Industry Association) NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business)

Improperly installed or non-existent flashing and water channel causes thousands of dollars in damage to a house’s structure. It is also very dangerous. It is also very dangerous. This is the number one cause of deck collapses, which often cause serious injury and death.

Improper Use of Hardware:â–˛

tie not rated to carry a deck ledger beam not rated for this application. Bolts with washers should be installed where indicated. VERY DANGEROUS: deck can easily pull away from supporting structure causing serious injury or death. My Neighbor's Experience I spoke with a nearby neighbor who experienced the nightmare of deck failure just 6 years ago. He went with his older son to a friend's brand new house that was only 3 weeks old. The friend said "You have got to come out and see the best scenic mountain view in the whole city." The owner walked out onto the second story brand new 10' x 12' wood deck, followed by the son and then my neighbor. Two steps out onto the deck and the ledger board broke away from the home. He said that time slowed down and it took what seemed like 5 minutes until he hit the ground. The other two fell on top of him. The deck was about to topple back on top of them, but stopped. My neighbor crushed 2 of his vertibrae, lost 1 1/2" in his stature, and still suffers the pains of the accident to this day. His experienced mirrored those that I have already shared with you in the info above. The difference in this story is that the deck was secured to the home with Grab-it type 2" long drywall screws. Some of the screws pulled out, while others sheared off. The screws only penetrated the home's sheathing a 1/2". Screws obviously are no better than nails, yet many builders are using them. In thinking about my neighbor's accident, I'm trying to figure the weight load that caused the deck to fail. 3 men 200 pounds each plus the weight of the lumber. That really isn't very much when I consider the numerous BBQ's that I have attended with a dozen or more people on a deck. I'm not a structural engineer, but I have sheared off my share of drywall screws with vice grips because they were too long. They don't bend, they shear off. My neighbor's experience clearly confirmed the "No Warning" condition of the Grab-it screw fastener's failure. The builder of the home is one of the largest in Northern Utah. I would have thought that the builder would have: 1) Done their own recall and returned to all of their previous wood decks to install lag bolts, and 2) Started installing lag bolts on their new construction. This construction failure was unethical at best, no major lawsuit was ever filed, so the builder never changed his ways. I have inspected a couple dozen of their home's and to this day they still use grabbers or nails. Consider the experiences presented in today's Monday Morning Marketer carefully as you evaluate your next home with a wood deck. Michael Leavitt



1. Decking spanning well over 24” maximimum. 2. No Post standoff barrier to prevent rot. 3. Insufficient footings: piers not at required 36” frost line depth. 1.

This outside board should be doubled on both sides.


Posts should be here. NOT HERE! Improperly Supported Framework:


No ledger bearings, improper cantilevers, and post / beam spacing out of code. A study done by DeckLok bracket systems has found that a surprising number of decks are collapsing long before the service life of the deck comes to an end.

Insufficient Footings:


piers not at the required 36" frost depth line.


1. Openings in benches: Over the 4” maximum. 2. Unstable Footings: set in an unstable base.

TIP #3: Have an inspector check your railings for load weight. Far too often people lean on these and the railing fails, causing injury. Railings should always be at least 36" high as well.

1. 2.

1. No Post Standoff1.Barrier to prevent rot. 2. piers not at 2. Insufficient Footings: required 36” frost line depth & footing materials inadequate for load support.

Deck failure: A Common Summer Hazard (excerpt) There is no way of knowing how many other deck collapses have occurred, because no governmental entity keeps track of such statistics. But a recent study done by a company that makes hardware to strengthen decks found that between 2000 and 2006, 33 people were killed and 1,122 were injured in 179 deck collapses across the country.

1. 2.

The worst, no doubt, was in Chicago in 2003, when 12 young people were killed and 57 injured when decks collapsed during a party.


3. 4.

1. Inadequate joist support: 5” L Brackets not rated to support 2” x 10” joists. 2. Ledger board covering ventilation duct: It should be notched around opening.

Some 800,000 new decks were built in 2005 alone, so the problem is not going to go away, according to the study by Michael Morse, who founded DeckLok Bracket Systems to make decks safer. At the same time, Morse found the number of decks collapsing is increasing at a rate of 21 percent each year, with most collapses, by far, occurring in the summer, when decks are heavily used. The most common cause, cited in more than 90 percent of all collapses, is failure of the ledger board connection to the house.

TIP #4: 1. Corroded Fasteners can promote decay in the surrounding wood, and lead to failure under any strain.

PETER B. LORD 07/04/2008 The Providence Journal

1. Inadequate Footings: support posts not in full contact with piers. 2. No Standoff or Attachment Connection


90° 3.

1. Power line too close to deck height. 2. No Grab rail 3. No stair risers 4. Stair rise variance more than 3/8”. 5. Bottom stair rise over



7 3/4” maximum


Apartment Balcony Collapses With 4 People On It Reporting - John Lauritsen



LITTLE CANADA, Minn. (WCCO) A night out on the balcony has landed two people in the hospital. They were hurt when the balcony they were 2. on collapsed at Montreal Courts apartment building in Little Canada. The accident happened around 7:30 Friday night. The third story balcony completely sheared off the wall. As it fell it ripped off part of a balcony below. Four men were on the piece that dropped. Rescuers helped two men at the scene and two others were taken to Regions Hospital.


Witnesses said the accident happened very fast. In a matter of seconds, four men who were enjoying a night on an apartment balcony fell 30 feet to the ground. "We were just sitting over there talking and we just heard like a crunching noise, when you break a stick it makes that crunch noise. And just, the whole thing just fell to the ground," said witness Stacy Hoffman.




1. Very poor miter cuts at corner joints. 2. Bench openings are

between post and pier. 3. Notice how they even tried to push some of the posts out of level to hit the piers. 1.

larger than 4” maximum required by code: Small 1. fall through and, children can easily


the deck is over 12’ off the ground. 2.

Eastward Look Deck Collapses, Dozens of URI Students Injured The collapse of a deck at a Narragansett residence sent at least 50 people plummeting 15 feet to the ground Saturday night during a party. Around 11:40 p.m. Narragansett Police responded to 37 Sakonnet Blvd. in Narragansett's Eastward Look neighborhood to find a second-story L-shaped deck had caved-in, crushing a mini-van and injuring dozens.



The deck, constructed in 1988 with pressure-treated lumber, was built in accordance with 1980 building codes.

1. Over notched side rim plate (to accomodate white PVC piping) created a weekend framework and, in turn, caused sagging deck boards.

Narragansett Building Official Anthony Santilli, Jr., who arrived on scene within an hour of the collapse, said there was no question the deck was built correctly. However, after 20 years, "water and mother nature" weakened the wood. In any condition, Santilli said, the deck was not meant to support that many people.

2. Railings are not

In his report, submitted to Narragansett's Department of Building Inspection, Santilli said, "It is the opinion of this office that deterioration and rot due to water damage behind the ledger board and overcrowding resulted in the collapse." Lindsay Lorenz 9/16/08 from The Good 5¢ Cigar

minimum lateral pressure.

Student Newspaper at the University of Rhode Island

1. No stair railings with 4 or more rises 2. No stair riser boards. 3. Stair stringer support brackets not making full connection. 4. Stairs buried in dirt causes accelerated deterioration. 5. No 3 ft. level stepping surface at bottom of stairs.


2. 1.



TIP #5: Nails are not strong enough to hold the ledger in place! It must be secured properly with lag bolts.

Deck Collapses in South Carolina A screened residential deck at a house on Pawley’s Island, S.C., collapsed during Memorial Day weekend, causing wedding rehearsal dinner guests to plummet 15 feet and injuring as many as 30 partygoers. According to local newspaper reports, two people with serious injuries were airlifted to hospitals in Charleston and Columbia. Unfortunately, collapses like this have become a hallmark of the summer season for both older and newer homes, when fine weather beckons and large numbers of people gather on the decks. Homeowners and beach-home renters understandably treat decks as just another (outdoor) room of the 3. house. And, by code, decks do have the same capacity requirement as indoor room. According to experts, though, deck failures are the result of under-strength deck construction details, a problem compounded by seasonal deterioration caused by weathering and water intrusion. Despite code requirements, typical support details for outdoor decks are far weaker in practice than the structure holding up the floor in the living or dining room. Instead of positive bearing of floor joists on a wall plate, most deck floor systems rely on a ledger board attachment to a house wall—which asks fasteners loaded in shear to carry gravity loads far beyond any load they are likely to carry in any other part of the home. The situation only gets worse as untrained and unsupervised carpenters often install the ledger boards with no idea of the limited capacity of the nails or screws that they are using.



Properly Installed Stair Risers

built to withstand 200 lbs.

4. & 5.

In addition, ledger board connections may not be effectively flashed to prevent rainwater from entering the assembly and creating conditions that encourage rotting of wood and rusting of fasteners. So the deck-to-house connections weaken gradually over time, meaning that a deck that has withstood large parties in years past may suddenly fail under a smaller load this year. While older decks are more vulnerable, new construction is by no means immune to the problem. Each year, more decks are installed with attachment details that are inadequate to support the 4. ledger-board & 5. weight of the numbers of people that could be reasonably anticipated to gather on the deck. Until recently, building codes have made little mention of residential deck structural attachment. Even the more recent International Codes only call for a “positive attachment” of the deck to the building, but do not provide specific prescriptive details. Ted Cushman May 27, 2008 Builder 2008

Code violations: 1. Notice the split posts – cedar



on top and treated below to save money. Splitting these posts creates a weaker railing and support post. Although allowable by code, not recommended. Also, if this practice is used, the posts should be blocked in from all sides from inside the framework. It’s nonexistent here.

Building Codes: Regulations detailing accepted materials and methods of building, such as the size of the deck, setback distances, railing and stair construction, footing depths, fastening methods, lumber types for certain deck components and fence or screen height around the deck. Usually adopted by city, county, or state building departments; most counties have local building codes.

1. 5.

Not DW▲

2. No stair riser boards. 3. Bottom stair rise more than


7 3/4” maximum. 4. Stairs rise variance over 3/8”

between rises.


5. No grab rail on stairs. 6. Buried bottom cedar stair newel posts in ground with no standoff separation between soil and lumber. Cedar is not rated for below ground contact.

Cantilever: A construction method that involves extending the joists beyond the support beam or the support beam beyond the posts.

► ▼

Cap Rail: The top horizontal piece of a railing, usually placed to give it a finished appearance. Composite Decking: Deck boards manufactured from wood fiber and plastic to form a profile which requires less maintenance and generally has a longer lifespan than natural wood.

4. 6.

Concentrated Load: The application of a relatively large force on a relatively small area.


Dead Load: The weight of the structure itself, which includes the plank system, support structure and any railings, built-in benches and other permanent features.

TIP #6: Lag bolts installed into OSB or plywood siding are not safe. The lag bolts must be installed into a secure portion of the home.

Cosmetically: 7. Existing deck has posts notched on outside of deck

frame and the new posts are notched inside. 8. Existing deck has 2x6/ 1x6 plate wrap. New deck has 1x12 plate wrap. 1.

1. No stair rail on left side of staircase. 2. Stair rail on right

side below 34” minimum height.


3. Benches and

planter are inadequate to serve

as a guardrail for a deck more than 30” above grade.


Baluster: One of a series of vertical supports used between posts of a railing. Also called a spindle.

TIP #7: Double check to make sure you know what you're getting! An estimate's text is pretty vague. Don't trust word description to describe the quality, style and type of work to be performed.

Expansion and Contraction: Boards expand when they heat up and contract when they cool down. Must be accounted for when spacing deck boards. Fascia: The boards used to cover rim joists and end joists. Also called “skirt”. Fasteners: Generic term for nails, bolts, screws and other connecting devices. Footing: The below-ground support of a deck’s post, usually made from concrete. Grade: A designation given to lumber indicating the amount of flaws and knots typically found in the wood. Example: construction common (aka con-common) is a grade of redwood containing sapwood; construction-heart (conheart) contains virtually no knots or blemishes. Inset: An area of a deck that has been cut out to accommodate decorative and landscape elements such as trees and firepits. Joist Hanger: A pre-manufactured metal piece typically attached to a ledger or beam to support a joist. Joist hangers should be galvanized. Joists: Horizontal framing members that support decking; a system of sub-deck structural elements located directly beneath the deck boards, commonly using 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 lumber. Ledger: A length of board, that is horizontally attached to the side of a house and holds up one edge of a deck. Linear Feet: The total length of required lumber. For example, three 8-foot-long 2x4s and four


Composite decking expands and contracts with varying

temperatures. Here’s an example of what happens when composite decking is not done properly. Unfortunately, this will not be covered under a manufacturer’s warranty because it is not installed correctly.

Hopefully, a poorly built deck is discovered before something terrible happens.

6-foot-long 2x4s both would be described as 24 linear feet of 2x4s. Live Load: The amount of weight a deck is designed to support. Most deck designs call for a live load of 60 pounds per square foot. Low-Voltage Lighting: Commercially available lighting systems that use a transformer to reduce the needed electrical current. Nominal Dimensions: The label given to a standard piece of lumber. For example, 2x4 is the name for a rough- cut piece of about 2x4 inches. It is then finished by planing and sometimes sanding it down to its actual dimensions (1 7/16” x 3 1/2”). On Center: A method of measuring distance between two structural members, such as joists, where you measure from the center of one member to the center of the other. The distance between the center of each joist, commonly 16” or 24”. Joists spaced 16” on center are actually 14-1/2” apart.

TIP #8: Ask to view the contractor's previous work first hand by visiting their past customers' decks.

Pier Block: A masonry post. Piers often serve as above-grade footings for posts and often are made of pre-cast concrete. Post: The vertical structural element that rests on the footing and supports the beam. Post Anchor: A metal piece attached to or imbedded in the footing that attaches the post to the footing and keeps the post from being exposed to moisture in the ground.

Woman Dies when Deck Collapses at Wedding Party LYONS, Oregon (AP) -- A wooden deck packed with guests at a wedding collapsed shortly after the ceremony, killing a California woman and injuring 25 others. The bride and groom, both in their 60s, were not seriously injured. Most of the victims in the accident at the bride's home Saturday plunged about 40 feet to the bottom of a bluff near the Little North Santiam River. "It went down in the blink of an eye," said Holly Williams, who had played her flute during the ceremony. Orleta Larue, 70, of Crescent City, California, died in the fall, officials said. Agnes Mink, 84, the bride's aunt, was in critical condition. Twenty-three other people, including the bride and groom, were treated at two local hospitals for injuries ranging from a broken collarbone to cuts. Most were reported in fair or good condition.

Sloppy craftsmanship: Julia Hansen of Boise, the bride's daughter, said she and other family members were getting ready to pose for photos when she gathered her children on steps near the deck.

Composite materials should always be piloted prior to screw installation.

Pressure Treated Wood: Wood subjected to a high pressure treatment of chemicals as a preservative. Rise: The vertical distance from one stair tread to another. Riser: The vertical piece between two stair steps. Shade Structure: A structure built above decks, usually of posts and lattice, to provide a shaded area on the deck.

"I said guys, stay over here," Hansen recalled. Seconds later, the deck gave way, and she and her children jumped back to safety.

Span: The distance between supports. Structural Integrity: A structure’s uncompromised ability to safely resist the required loads.

"By the time I turned back around, the deck was gone," she said. "I saw some legs flying but the rest of the people were already down."

Sub-Structure: The deck construction that is located below, and supports the deck boards and railing system. Components include joists and hangers, ledgers, rim joists, beams, posts, anchors and footers.

Hansen said her mother had the deck built about five years ago and that it had passed a recent inspection. The cause was under investigation.

Wind Load: The lateral pressure on a structure in pounds per square foot, due to wind blowing in any direction.

Lyons is about 25 miles southeast of Salem. Michael Leavitt Web posted at: 12:12 PM EDT The Associated Press. September 19, 1999

Post Cap: A small piece of material (often wood) attached to the top of the post to cover the post’s wood grain and protect the post from the weather. Can be made of many materials including metal, Injection-molded plastics, even decorative glass tops for round and square posts.

ABC News: Giulio Saggin

TIP #9: Ask about the warranty. Steer away from any contractor that doesn't guarantee their work.

Photo courtesy of Simpson Strong-Tie.

Design by: Writing On the Wall Grafix Catalog Artwork, & Deck Designs where indicated Š DW Elite Decks (913) 782-7575

Most people don't give a second thought to their deck's safety. We trust that whoever built it did so correctly, and with our safety in mind. The sad reality is that there are far too many injuries and fatalities for this to be true. These folks were comfortable with their deck's safety, until they weren't anymore.

Deck Safety Handbook/ DW Elite Decks  

A guide to proper and safe deck construction. Specific installation methods and building materials required by International Residential Co...

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