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3 min read

Check the Deck

Keeping Outdoor Decks Safe & Strong

With more than 60 million decks in the U.S., roughly 30 million are past their useful life span. That’s why 19 deck builders teamed up to form the North American deck and railing association and are working to address every deck that needs to be replaced or repaired. 

NADRA works in 47 states and 6 countries to bring awareness to the dangers of an outdated deck. The group’s Executive Vice President Michael Beaudry says decks, like anything else in a home, need to be maintained and serviced, then eventually replaced. They’ve worked for 17 years to push out this information and ultimately save lives.

Michael Beaudry"You have people getting injured,
& sometimes killed, & we are just
trying so hard to help people."

Several people died, and more than a dozen were hurt by deck collapses in the U.S. this year. It is crucial for homeowners to have their decks inspected to verify the deck's integrity and ensure safety. Inspections also help extend the deck’s life-span, improve appearance, and increase livability.

NADRA leaders say landscape professionals play a key role in bringing awareness to this issue. Crews can check decks as they spend time outside homes and businesses, and remind clients to invest in deck inspection, construction, stability, and longevity.

“For example, if a group wants to do a patio or install new lighting, or whatever it is, a crew member can tell the homeowner ‘Hey I was looking at your deck you really should get that inspected.’ Especially because the landscaper will have a closer relationship with the homeowner than the local deck builder.”

The association offers an array of tools to help professionals and consumers check the decks, then connect with building professionals who can identify and remedy potential problems. The NADRA also built a 10-point checklist to help professionals monitor deck safety.


Check Your Deck® Consumer Checklist

 Split or decaying wood: 

  • Check different areas of the deck to be sure the wood is still sound.
  • Pay special attention to any areas that tend to remain damp, are regulary exposed to water or are in contact with fasteners. Use a tool like a screwdriver to penetrate the wood surface. If you can easily penetrate 1/4-1/2-inch, break off a sliver of wood without splinters; if wood is soft and spongy, decay may be present.
  • Look for small holes in the wood, which may indicate insects.


  • Flashing is a metal or plastic guard that directs water out and away from sensitive areas. It's often installed where the deck and house come together, keeping moisture and debris from collecting between the house and deck's ledger board. Be certain the flashing is sound and firmly in place. Consider adding or replacing flashing if you notice areas that are obviously allowing water to collect.


  • Check any railings or handrails to be sure they are firmly held in place; also check risers and stringers to be certain they are securely attached and not decayed.
  • If the area behind the stair treads is open, this opening should be no more than 4" high.
  • Keep stair pathways clear of any tripping hazards, i.e. planters or toys.

 Loose or corroded fasteners:

  • Fasteners include nails, screws or anchors in the ledger boards. Tighten any loose fasteners. (Note: The ledger board should not be fastened with only nails.)
  • If fastener appears rusted or corroded, consider replacing it.
  • The deck or stairs should appear even without sagging and should not sway or move when tested.

 Railings and banisters:

  • These should be secure. This is especially important the higher your deck is off the ground.

 Cleaning and maintenance:

  • Clean away any leaves and debris, since these can be slippery and promote mildew.
  • If mildew is present or the deck coating has worn away, make time to clean and apply a new waterproofing coating. This can help prevent split, decayed wood and loosedned fasteners mentioned earlier.

 Grills, fire pits, chimneys, heaters and candles:

  • Make sure any source of fire or heat is safely placed away from flammable surface or deck is protected from a non-flammable pad.
  • Always use caution and follow manufacturers' directions.

 Lighting and electrical:

  • Be sure all lighting is working; clean any light covers to allow maxium light to shine through.
  • Be sure all electrical outlets, appliances and features are up to code, in good condition and childproof if children are present.

   Outdoor furniture and storage:

  • Test all outdoor furniture to be sure it is sturdy. Avoid placing seating right at the edge of the deck. Test that chains and ropes are secure if you have a swing or hammock installed. Consider installing childproof latches on any storage boxes and benches.

  Surrounding Trees:

  • If you have trees overhanging your deck, make certain there is no danger of decaying limbs falling.

*Checking a deck using this information does not constitute a code compliant deck. It is intended to assist homeowners. Seek a professional such as a deck builder or an ashi home inspector to get a deck evaluation.


Michael Beaudry is one of NADRA's founders and leads the role as the Association's Executive Vice President. Mike is passionate about NADRA. HIs passion and ethusiansim for all things outdoor living is contagious.

Phone: (215) 679–4884

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