Spring is here and the warmer weather means that people will soon venture outside to clean off their porch, deck, veranda, or balcony. However, a porch or deck is often overlooked as a potential source of severe injury due to wear and tear combined with insufficient maintenance. Homeowners and building owners who fail to engage in annual inspections of porches and decks can place family members, guests, or tenants at risk of serious bodily injuries or even death.
Therefore, before you invite family and friends over for spring or summer barbecue it is prudent to hire an inspector to look for problems with your deck. If you’ve never hired an inspector before, he or she may even find that the deck was not constructed properly or sufficiently secure to the home. If this is just the latest iteration of your yearly maintenance, the inspector may still find rotted boards, rusted or decayed fasteners, or a host of other problems. Take the time to assess the condition of your deck now and avoid an accident or tragedy similar to those that occurred during 2015.
Recent Balcony and Deck Collapse Tragedies
Perhaps the most widely publicized balcony collapse event of 2015 was the Berkeley balcony collapse. In this incident, 13 people plummeted four stories to the ground after their apartment balcony collapsed. Six people suffered fatal injuries and seven were severely wounded in the accident. The investigation into the incident found that water had seeped into the structure and caused the support beams to rot. The weakened support beams or insufficient to hold the balcony thus triggering the collapse.
Unfortunately, the Berkeley balcony clubs was not the only high-profile structural collapse of the summer. In July at the popular Emerald Isle, North Carolina vacation island, 20 people suffered injuries due to a deck collapse. The individuals were all family members and some were critically injured in the collapse.
These are far from the only examples of deck, porch, and balcony collapses in 2015 — though they’re perhaps the most shocking and noteworthy. In fact, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s NEIS system estimates that over a four-year period that more than 200,000 injuries can be attributed to faulty decks and porches nationwide.
Many Porch and Balcony Collapses Can be Prevented With Proper Maintenance
Most experts believe that a porch or deck has a reasonable lifespan of about 10 to 15 years. Since many if not most porches and decks are constructed of wood, these materials deteriorate over time. Assuming that the deck was properly constructed and secured, a new deck is more to be able to support greater weights than a deck that has been subjected to the wear and tear of harsh weather condition.
When assessing the condition of your deck is important to look for visible deterioration or decay of the wood and other materials. If the material shows significant wear and tear, replacing the materials of a full a retrofit is likely necessary. If upon stepping out on your deck, you are able to hear creaks, feel the deck gives way, or you can feel the deck shift beneath you immediately vacate the deck and take steps to prevent others from entering into it. If any of these things happen, is often a sign that the deck is in the process of failing and it is in immediate need of repair or replacement.
Furthermore, it is often prudent to have your deck inspected by professional because building standards and building codes can be updated to address newly understood risks and problems. For instance, at one point some building codes were often silent regarding the type of fastener used. Today, most building codes insist on the use of screws or other special fasteners in place of nails. While nails are prone to slipping over time, screws and other specialized fasteners are more likely to hold and prevent a collapse. Likewise, inspectors should determine whether the deck support beams are secured by metal base and are not simply buried in the soil.
While homeowner should always conduct the visual inspection of the deck, the safest course of action is to hire professional who is well-versed in local building codes.
Injured by a Collapsed or Faulty Deck? Contact The Reiff Law Firm Today
Individuals who were injured by a deck that has collapsed or is otherwise faulty may be entitled to significant compensation for their injuries, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and lost future earnings. If you have suffered a life-altering injury contact the deck and railing defect and collapse lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 today or contact us online.