Deck collapses might not seem like an imminent threat to your family, but believe it or not, they happen all the time. For example, one Utah family was surprised when their deck collapsed after fifteen people gathered on the structure during a Fourth of July event in 2015. Believe it or not, a similar incident happened on the same day across the country. Twenty-four members of a North Carolina family were injured after their deck collapsed when they gathered for a Fourth of July photo.
To protect your family from accidents like these, it is crucial to check your deck for signs of wood rot, which can significantly weaken the supportive structures that hold up your deck. Here are two tips for detecting wood rot before it destroys your deck—and potentially injures your loved ones:
1: Know What You Are Looking For
Unless you moonlight as a contractor, you might not be innately familiar with the symptoms of wood rot. To you, that deck might look old, but you might consider wood problems to be more of a cosmetic concern than a pressing safety issue. Also, since there are different types of wood rot, even someone who has seen wood rot before might not immediately recognize a different variety. Here are three common types of wood rot and how to recognize them:
- Dry Rot: Dry rot, also called brown rot, primarily affects softwoods like pine and cedar, and causes the wood to turn dark brown. Dry rot can occur anytime a piece of untreated wood is repeatedly permeated with water, and then the wood dries out. Since the wood seems dry, some homeowners assume the wood is sturdy. However, since dry rot can cause wooden planks to split or develop checkerboard fractures, dry rot can cause wood to lose as much as 80% of its strength.
- Soft Rot: Although rare, soft rot can take hold of your deck and hide quietly within the body of those planks. Soft rot forms within the cavities inside the wood, slowly working its way outward. If you have beams affected by soft rot, they may look pitted on the edges where the wood has been cut.
- White Rot: Just because your wood hasn't darkened doesn't mean that it isn't affected by wood rot. White rot affects the cellulose fibers of the wood, causing them to lighten in color. White rot can look white, yellow, or slightly gray. Wood affected with white rot can also feel spongy.
If you don't notice any of these issues when you perform a visual inspection of your deck, take a screwdriver and use it to press against the wood planks. If you can easily push a screwdriver into a wooden plank, it might be affected by some type of rot. Fortunately, professional wood rot repair experts can test the structural integrity of the beams, replace damaged wood, and even inspect the area carefully to spot the cause of the problem.
2: Check For Signs of Movement
Wood rot can affect more than just an individual plank. Since your deck is composed of several structural supports that work in tandem to provide support to the area, a single rotten plank can jeopardize the stability of the entire deck.
To check for stability issues, check your deck carefully for signs of movement. Watch how your deck responds when someone climbs up the stairs or rolls the grill around on the deck. If your deck makes creaking noises or moves slightly, you might have undetected issues with wood rot. Never write off movement or noises as a simple quirk. A little movement now could pave the way for a complete collapse later. If your deck moves slightly, that movement can shake apart existing supports, which can make the entire area even less stable in the future.
By knowing the signs of wood rot and contacting a repair contractor early, you might be able to preserve your deck and keep your family safe. To learn more, contact a local contractor.