Did you know that thousands of people throughout the U.S. are injured every year due to the collapse of decks and porches? In fact, a study by the Customer Product Safety Commission found that 33,000 deck collapse injuries happened over a period of five years. For homeowners, this should be a reminder to ensure that their decks, balconies, and porches are safe for family and for visitors, to avoid not only costly injuries but potential injury lawsuits as well.
Here is a checklist for examining the safety of the balcony or deck in your home.
Does it comply with regulations?
There are local regulations in Illinois regarding the building of decks and similar structures. In Chicago, for instance, a balcony, deck, or porch floor must be able to support 100 pounds per square foot at the minimum. Ensure that your deck is compliant with your city’s safety standards, especially if the structure is old or was built by someone else.
Are you aware of its maximum capacity?
Even well-maintained decks can suffer structural failure if it exceeds its weight capacity. Know just how much weight is safe for your balcony or porch, and avoid over-weighting. Particularly watch the weight when visitors are around or when activities are held on the structure.
Is it older than 15 years?
As a rule of thumb, if your deck is more than 15 years old, it’s time to have it checked by a professional. You’ll also want professionals to repair or reinforce it as needed, especially because older decks may have been built before safety codes were put in place.
Are there missing or damaged parts?
Inspect your balcony or porch once a year for necessary repairs or replacements. Some things to look out for: loose boards, rusted or missing nails, cracks and splinters, rotting wood, loose fasteners, and swaying movements.
Are there heavy items on it?
Furniture, wading pools, potted plants, and appliances are some common items found on porches or decks. Consider that these items can weigh significantly and affect the structural integrity of your deck, especially if they have been unmoved from their spot for a long time. As much as possible, minimize the heavy things you place on your deck to help preserve it.
Is it protected from the weather?
Illinois weather, with its temperature swings and harsh winters, can be tough on structures. Maintain your deck’s protection from the elements by providing adequate roofing or regular wood maintenance. It’s also best to conduct inspections after particularly heavy snows or rains.
When an accident occurs on an unsafe deck, balcony, or porch, the homeowner may be held liable. Avoid this liability by regularly ensuring the safety of your home. And if you or your loved one has suffered an injury on someone else’s unsafe deck, talk to us at Willens Law Offices to see what the law may entitle you to.