|Decks are great for outdoor barbeques, soaking up the sun, and gazing at the stars. Between family gatherings, children playing, and gardening, there is plenty of use all year round. With all this ongoing activity, you need to keep everyone safe and ensure this important extension of your home is in keeping with building regulations.
Here are 3 key tips to keep in mind when sizing up a deck for your home:
1. The attached deck. When you lag (attach the deck to your home), there is a building code requirement that specifies the posts be set in sono tubes (concrete tubes) that should be set at least four feet (4') into the ground so that they are below the frost line and will not shift.
2. The concrete pad deck. This kind of deck has posts set into a free-floating concrete pad on the ground (nicknamed the Bear Paw). Now watch for this classic mistake! Make sure your concrete deck is NOT level with the concrete mantel (the cement strip that supports your sliding glass doors). In our climate, with our rain, snow, freezing rain, and the winds that sometimes blow horizontally, the snow will be driven up to the patio doors, and, over time, water may get under the door frame.
There are three signs that will tell you that water is getting into your home:
- The drywall on either side of the doors shows water stains (brown), and when you touch it, it feels spongy and wet.
- The floor shows signs of black marks. This indicates that the water has gotten under your vinyl flooring or hardwood flooring.
- Most doors today are vinyl-clad but sometimes there will be exposed steel screws. If they show any signs of rust, then they have been exposed to water. If you have older style aluminum sliding doors, watch carefully for any water signs, as aluminum is a heavy conductor of heat and cold.
Once a water problem has been identified, it will be almost impossible to rebuild the deck as you would have to drop the deck flooring down at least six inches (6") (the building code calls for seven and one quarter inches (7 1/4") height for each step down). At this point, only one solution is viable: if the walkout door sliders are old, you could replace them with a better door that may provide better protection from getting water under the frame.
Keep in mind that the rise of the deck steps should not exceed seven and one quarter inches (7 ¼"), and individually, the steps should not have more than one quarter inch (1/4") difference from one another on the rise. We have all heard the saying, "He (or she) missed a step," which often applies to the basement stairs. Think about missing a twelve-inch step off a deck. The consequences could be a broken ankle, foot or leg, with months of therapy and possibly some pain for the rest of your life.
3. To rail or not to rail? Different municipalities have different building code requirements for deck railings, depending upon the height off the ground. Any deck that is more than twelve inches (12") off the ground, I personally feel, should have some sort of railing. The city of Barrie building codes stipulates that any deck twenty four inches (24") off the ground requires a railing with spindles not more than four inches (4") apart. This four-inch requirement includes all interior and exterior spindles. And I believe that this is a code requirement across Canada. Why? So that children cannot put their head through the spindles. I would suggest that if you have a deck that you do not feel needs a railing, build in permanent seats and/or flower planters as a safety measure.
Watch for more articles coming up.
For the next three months, I will be writing articles on windows, shingles, and furnaces, the three biggest money concerns for homes that are more than 15 years old. I will write about furnaces last, with the hopes that the new Federal Government Retrofit Program will have begun by then. I plan to use three different Barrie contractors to help with the input of the articles, and will identify them accordingly.
If you have a topic you would like me to address through the winter months, please email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 705-721-9111.