We frequently get calls from homeowners who want to either repair their existing deck or possibly replace a deck. There are many considerations such as safety, cost, materials, and building code when deciding between repair or replace. This month we are talking with Tony Edwards, owner of AG’s Home Solutions and NC Licensed General Contractor.
Q) Tony, what is the most important factor when deciding between repairing or replacing a deck?
A) Definitely safety. Was the deck built according to code? Most often, existing decks need to be removed and replaced. Safety starts with the footers, but there are many areas we look for that can make an older deck unsafe .
Q) So, if a deck is built according to code, is it safe?
A) Building codes are a minimum standard – they are not the standard for AG’s Home Solutions where we build quality decks. Even the building inspector is not responsible for making sure a deck is safe – it is your general contractor’s responsibility to ensure its’ safety and that it complies with all local building codes. So, it is really important to pick a licensed general contractor that you trust.
Q) What are the most common safety concerns that a homeowner or you as a licensed builder can look for when inspecting a deck?
A) Footings first – we often find that there are no footings - sometimes posts are just put in dirt, or the footings weren’t poured to code specifications. Unfortunately, this compromises the entire structure.
- Second, are the joists installed to code, either a ledger strip nailed properly, or joist hangers installed properly.
- Third, If the floor joists are over spanned, then it will cause deflection or bounce in the deck.
- Lateral support – if the deck is attached to the home – this is usually not an issue. But in free standing decks we are looking to see if it has enough lateral support to keep it from swaying back and forth.
- Mechanically approved attachments: Screws and nails should be galvanized for exterior use. If hangars are used, there should be a screw or a nail in every hole.
- Condition of deck boards: We look for signs of obvious rot, and things like butt-joints that have turned into toe stumpers. Those are two signs that at least the decking should be replaced. And in this case, you can often judge a book by the cover – if there are problems on the outside, there are often problems found once the deck boards are removed and we can see the structure underneath.
Q) Is there anything you want to add when it comes to the decision to repair or replace a deck?
A) As a licensed general contractor, if we contract with a homeowner and find a deck that is not up to code, we are responsible to bring it up to code. That often requires us to tear it down and build a new deck in its place.
Q) Tony, we mentioned materials earlier. Lumber prices are soaring right now. What would you tell clients who need deck work done sooner rather than later?
A) With current pricing, we typically recommend a proposal that compares wood decking and composite decking. Their prices are closer together than they have ever been, and composite requires much less maintenance. Composite really pays for itself in just a couple of years.
Q) Thank you for your time today Tony. What message do you want to leave with our clients?
A) Spend more time enjoying your deck than you do maintaining it. We offer deck packages with composite decking and vinyl handrails and, more importantly, we are going to build it to our high standards, not just enough to meet code. You can see some of the decks we have built HERE, or call us today to come out and look at your decking project, (252) 947-2526.