Rotting timber, fungus growth, corroding screws, warped bracing, cracked posts and split planks are just some of the dangers found by building inspectors on some of Queensland’s worst decks.
The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) has issued a warning to homeowners not to be complacent about deck health as the Queensland sun has been baking decks across the state.
QBCC Commissioner Brett Bassett said having a decay free deck will reduce the risk of any unwanted disasters.
“Deck safety should always be on your mind before hosting friends and family for the quintessential Queensland barbeque which has become a staple social event,” he said.
“Decks, balconies, balustrades, stairs and handrails all require regular and effective maintenance to help ensure their long-term safety.
“We always recommend using a QBCC-licensed contractor to carry out any renovation or repair work on your deck or balcony, but before calling someone, it pays to give your deck a regular visual inspection.”
The QBCC recommends homeowners conduct checks on their decks and balustrades to keep a close eye on potential failings or maintenance issues.
Mr Bassett said that fixings, bracings, posts, bearers and joists were the key areas that needed to be checked.
“We recommend a visual inspection at least every 12 months, however the frequency of any maintenance depends on the materials, type of finish, climate and the degree of exposure to the weather,” he said.
The Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) is also encouraging rental property owners/managers and tenants to ensure they check their properties.
RTA CEO Jennifer Smith said all parties involved in private rentals should arrange and facilitate adequate inspections, repairs and maintenance to ensure the safety of their rental property.
“Property managers/owners have a responsibility to make sure the rental property is clean, safe, in good repair, fit to live in and abide by health and safety laws – and tenants also play an important role by keeping the property clean, damage-free and notifying the property manager/owner of any repairs required in a timely manner,” Ms Smith said.
Homeowners can find a licensed contractor using the QBCC’s free online licensee search or by calling 139 333.
Here are the key areas to look at when undertaking a deck-check:
Fixings, including post brackets, should be free from rust, bending or fractures.
Rust may occur more rapidly if you live in a coastal region, although there are products that can be applied to metal fixings or components to slow or prevent this process.
For a weather-exposed deck or balcony, all fixings such as nuts, bolts, screws and nails should be metal with non-corroding properties. In most cases, hot-dipped galvanised fasteners should be used; however, in some highly-corrosive coastal atmospheres, stainless steel fixings will be needed.
Bracing is often used to support a deck or balcony, helping prevent it from moving under load.
Decks and balconies can come under considerable stress from swaying or twisting. It is important to inspect any bracing of a deck or balcony to ensure there has not been any excessive structural movement. If bracing fails, there is a significant risk of harm being caused to people and property.
Deterioration and subsequent failure of posts can result in death or serious injury to people and damage to property. Timber should be treated appropriately if in the ground or be of a species that will not degrade in soil.
Check timber posts for decay where bearers and other timbers are in contact with posts. Signs of decay include a fungus-type growth on the timber, timber becoming spongy and fibrous, and failure of the timber. Steel posts in the ground should be checked for signs of rust and deterioration as water can pool around these areas.
- Warped, cracked or damaged bracing elements
- Fixings that are coming loose or deteriorating
- Cracked or rusted welds.
Bearers and joists
Bearers support the joists, which in turn support the decking. To maintain the integrity of the decking, it is vital for bearers and joists to be in good condition and free from defects, such as warping, cracking and decay.
Ledgers or pole plates
Decks and balconies are often attached to the main external walls of the house or other structure, such as a pool, by supporting joists or bearers off ledgers or pole plates.
Ledgers and pole plates must have adequate structural connections to their supporting structure, which may mean connecting them through the external wall cladding to the structural frame of the house.
While it is common for brick veneer houses with a deck to just use a masonry fastener (expanding anchor) to connect the ledger or pole plate, this is not usually an acceptable or structurally adequate connection.
Decking boards are the direct link between inhabitants and the structure, and timber boards should be regularly inspected for decay. Signs of decay include a fungus-type growth on the timber, timber becoming spongy and fibrous, and failure of the timber. Using a screwdriver or chisel to poke suspect timber can assist in identifying decay.