August, 2011
You Tell Us
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Bite must be right

EDITED BY ASHI STAFF

To the Editor:

I heartily agree with the main premise of Steve Gladstone's article in the June issue of the Reporter, "Safe Decks – Always an Issue." Over the years, many decks have collapsed due to poor construction or lack of maintenance, resulting in serious injury and even death. However, Steve's statement, "I emphasize how important it is to lag (screw) bolt in the ledger board to the band joist or at least into the sheathing" (my emphasis), contributes to an unsafe practice. No sheathing provides sufficient "bite" or anchoring to properly secure the deck to the house.

In fact, in my area, many jurisdictions prohibit the use of lag screws altogether and require through-bolts with washers and nuts. An even better method of securing the deck is to use Decklok brackets. These brackets attach the deck joists to the house joists, thus making it an integral part of the structure and not subject to pulling away. More information on these brackets may be found at www.Decklok.com.

A new method of construction, which is gaining popularity, is the free-standing deck, where the deck is not attached to the house, but is supported by girders at each end of the joist. When in doubt as to how securely the deck is attached to the house, a properly supported girder can be installed, where the deck is attached to the building, making it, in effect, free-standing. The buyer should always be warned, in the inspection report, as to the importance of proper maintenance and the possibility of deck collapse under certain adverse conditions. I hope the foregoing information will prove of value to ASHI members.

Victor J. Faggella,
ACI #478
Centurion Home Inspections, Inc.
Member of the ASHI Technical Review Committee


Steve Gladstone's reply: Mr. Fagella's comments (as usual) are right on! He's so smart, we have to keep giving him awards at ASHI and his local chapter. Adding my two cents to his comment only reinforces that while "through-bolting" and using new fasteners, like the DeckLok product will make decks much safer and less likely to collapse, most municipal inspectors do not even check for or require lag bolts into the sheathing. In 28 years, I don't think I've seen through-bolts in more than 10 decks and I built two of those. I do not see builders or contractors following this practice and with homeowners … they follow a whole other set of rules. The end result, sadly, will be more decks falling. Thanks, Victor.

Editor's Note: ASHI members and Simpson StrongTie are partnering for greater deck safety.