May, 2017
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



ASHI Deck Standard FAQs

BRUCE BARKER





Note to All ASHI Members Regarding the Upcoming Vote on the Proposed Deck Standard:
This spring, ASHI members will be asked to vote on whether to approve the proposed Auxiliary Standard of Professional Practice for Residential Deck Inspections. This article is intended to provide answers to frequently asked questions about the proposed Deck Standard. 
The Standards Committee has spent more than a year developing this Deck Standard. It has been approved by the ASHI Board of Directors and by ASHI’s attorney. It has been made available for member and public comment. We urge you to approve this standard so that ASHI members can help improve the safety of decks and help prevent needless injury and death. For more information, look for the Deck Standard ballot in your email (during May and June) and the wording of the proposed Deck Standard (http://www.homeinspector.org/files/docs/Deck_Sop.pdf). When you receive your ballot, be sure to vote on this important issue!

What is the Deck Standard?
The Deck Standard is a voluntary auxiliary standard, like the Predrywall and Pool Standards. Inspectors may elect to offer this service or they may elect not to.

Why do we need a separate Deck Standard?
Reliable statistics are difficult to obtain, but injuries (and worse) involving decks are in the thousands every year. Inspections of existing decks by trained inspectors can help reduce these needless injuries, thereby improving public safety. Experts in deck safety are aware of this project and they agree that this Deck Standard is a significant step forward for deck safety.

Auxiliary standards, such as this Deck Standard, are an important part of ASHI’s credentialing program. This program is under development, so details have not been finalized. The current intent is that through training, testing and continuing education, ASHI will offer members meaningful additional credentials that they can use to differentiate themselves from other inspectors.

Does the Deck Standard apply to home inspections?
No. Deck Standard Section 1.1 makes this point very clear. Deck inspections performed using this standard are intended to be performed as a separate service for homeowners who want to know about the condition of their deck. Deck inspections performed using this standard are not intended to be performed during a home inspection.

A proposed addition to the home inspection standard, which is also on the ballot, makes it very clear that all inspections based on auxiliary standards are excluded from a home inspection unless the client and inspector agree in writing to include the inspection.

Will the Deck Standard become part of the Home Inspection Standard?
No. An inspection using the Deck Standard is much more technically exhaustive than a deck inspection performed during a home inspection. Deck Standard Section 1.1 makes this point very clear. (View the proposed Deck Standard on the ASHI website at http://www.homeinspector.org/files/docs/Deck_Sop.pdf)

Air conditioner inspections are a good analogy for distinguishing between an inspection performed during a home inspection and a technically exhaustive inspection. An air conditioner inspection during a home inspection involves observing the air conditioner and operating it. That is all we are required to do. A technically exhaustive air conditioner inspection involves activities such as taking pressure and current draw measurements, which we do not do.

A deck inspection during a home inspection involves observing the deck. That is all we are required to do. The more technically exhaustive deck inspection using the Deck Standard involves comparing the deck to a Deck Construction Guideline, such as DCA 6‐12, and reporting deck components that do not comply with the guideline. This involves technically exhaustive activities such as measuring joists, beams and posts, and comparing those measurements to tables in the guideline. A deck inspection using the Deck Standard is much more than a deck inspection performed during a home inspection. It should be easy to explain this to a client who asks.

Why are specific defects not listed in the Deck Standard?
A standard of practice tells the inspector what to look at, not what to look for. Specific defects are not listed in the home inspection standard and they are not listed in the Deck Standard. A reportable defect for a Deck Standard inspection will be found in the deck construction guideline selected by the inspector.

May a balcony be inspected using the Deck Standard?
Maybe. A balcony that is built as a deck may be inspected using the Deck Standard. A balcony is built as a deck if it is freestanding, or if it is supported on one side by a ledger attached to the house, or if the floor joists extend from the house and are supported by a beam or a similar structure near where the joists end. The deck-like balcony structural components should be visible for inspection.

A cantilevered balcony may be inspected using the Deck Standard if the inspector uses a Deck Construction Guideline that applies to a cantilevered balcony, and if the cantilevered balcony structural components are visible for inspection. A cantilevered balcony is defined as a structure consisting of floor joists that extend from the house and that are supported only by the house wall.

What is a Deck Construction Guideline?
This term is defined in the Deck Standard glossary. The best example of a Deck Construction Guideline is DCA 6‐12, which is available as a free download at www.awc.org.

Why does a Deck Standard Inspection use a Deck Construction Guideline?
A Deck Construction Guideline is an objective standard to which an inspector can compare a deck. Having an objective standard removes subjective judgments involving terms such as “significantly deficient.” A deck component either complies with the guideline or it does not comply. If the component does not comply, the inspector reports this fact, explains the implication of noncompliance and recommends that the client take appropriate action. Having an objective standard reduces risk; of course, the inspector must be familiar with the Deck Construction Guidelines that the inspector selects.

Why not use DCA 6‐12 as the Deck Construction Guideline?
Inspectors may want to use other guidelines that are suited to their local market. The Deck Standard gives inspectors the flexibility to use a guideline that best suits their needs.

Is it fair and reasonable to apply current standards to an existing deck?
Yes, for at least two reasons. First, there is no grandfathering of safety defects. If something about a deck is unsafe, it does not matter if the deck complied with building codes or standards when it was built. This is the definition and rationale behind the definition of “unsafe.”

Second, a deck inspection performed using the Deck Standard is for homeowners (clients) who want to know about the condition of their deck. This is an important distinction. Sellers do not usually appreciate it when the inspector finds defects. Homeowners (clients) want to know about the defects, especially those that might present safety concerns; that’s why they will hire the inspector. The homeowner (client) is free to act on the information in the deck inspection report or to disregard it.

Will extra training be required to inspect using the Deck Standard?
Extra training is not required, but it is strongly recommended for most members. Inspections performed using the Deck Standard are different from deck inspections performed during a home inspection. Extra training will help inspectors understand their responsibilities when conducting inspections using the Deck Standard. The current plan is to make this training available to members and chapters free of charge using the Internet and video technology. Live classes also should be available for those who prefer question-and-answer interaction with an instructor. Training plans are not final at this time.

A Final Note
The Standards Committee has spent more than a year developing this Deck Standard. It has been approved by the ASHI Board of Directors and by ASHI’s attorney. It has been made available for member and public comment. We urge you to approve this standard so that ASHI members can help improve the safety of decks and help prevent needless injury and death.